Not really sure what to call it, some editor decided on "Electronic Art." It was the headline placed on the first digital photo ever published in the Tulsa World on Feb. 26, 1993.
The photo not only made history 25 years ago, but it also foreshadowed another historic event. Just a year later, the Tulsa World would be the first American newspaper to switch to digital photography completely from film.
The photo captured two kids playing at Third Street and Delaware Avenue. The caption said the photo was taken with a digital system from Kodak. "The Tulsa World is testing the system, which takes pictures electronically instead of film," the caption read. "The system includes a device that fits on Nikon N8008 cameras. The photographer takes a picture, then dumps the electronic image directly into a computer. An artist sizes the picture on a computer screen, then prints it out. The resulting print is suitable for publication. The system is faster than traditional film-processing methods."
"I was so nervous," said Brandi Simons, who took that first digital photo under the byline of Brandi Stafford. "I was 20, the only female on staff and had never shot with a digital camera before. Yeah, no pressure at all. The camera was huge, heavy and the battery was awful."
Unlike cameras today, Simons didn’t have a screen to see if her photo looked good. "I wasn’t even sure if I had anything when I went back to the newsroom."
Despite all of its burdens, the digital camera didn't require a dark room to publish a photograph. Soon after, the Tulsa World invested in 10 cameras at about $15,000 each. Without having to purchase chemicals, film and photo paper, the cameras paid for themselves quickly.
"I was very proud to be a part of something so groundbreaking," said Simons, who owns her own photography business in Owasso. "I do remember being extremely proud of the Tulsa World, and I was very proud to shoot that photo. I wasn't sure why I was given the opportunity, but I was thankful."
The Tulsa World was her first job out of Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology in Okmulgee. She had just been hired before given the digital camera to try out.
Simons came across a copy of the photo while helping going through her aunt’s belongings recently.
"I thought it was sweet that she had clipped it out," Simons said. "And then I looked at the date and it was 25 years ago. For me, the caption was the best thing."