Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Don’t Call Me Shirley

An entire sheet of artist stamps arrived in the P.O. Box this month from San Francisco artist Sally Wurlitzer.  I immediately was drawn to the sheet of stamps from a pure aesthetic point of view.  And then there is the story that tells so much, much more.   From the text printed on the sheet:
Shirley was Kodak’s ideal in film processing.  She possessed the skin tone considered to be “normal” and against which all other skin tones were calibrated during film development.  Samples of Shirley were sent to all film labs in the form of “Shirley Cards.”  The original Shirley was an actual employee of Kodak, but no one knows what happened to her.  Over the years there were many other “Shirleys” who looked very similar to the original.  Eventually Kodak says they caught up with the times and designed a multi-racial Shirley Card.  This did not occur until 1995.
For more information, NPR did a story in 2014 and the Guardian explored the issue in a 2013 story.

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