The recent news of Kodak filing for bankruptcy in the US was disappointing news, but one that had been rumored for a while.
I was certainly not surprised. Those that know me well will know that I have often asked tongue in cheek, if Kodak were still in photography in recent years? They simply had slipped off the radar for me as a pro photographer.
But this for those of us that have been around a while, it is still a shock when it actually happens. So here are a few thoughts of my own on this great company.
When George Eastman really started the ball rolling, and made famous ‘You press the button and we do the rest’, he was able to bring photography to the masses for the first time. Then during the 20th century, Kodak simply were photography.
Those who have been enticed by digital in the last decade, will find it hard to understand the fall for this goliath. Forget Microsoft, Apple, Canon, Sony and many others, Kodak were really big.
I studied the history of photography when I was younger, bored me a little at the time, but as time passes, you understand and appreciate many things.
Bringing photography too everyone was one of the changes that turned us into a modern society I think. Before that only the very well healed could indulge. And let us not overlook the fact that Britain was pioneering in this new art in it’s early days. But back too Kodak.
While I was an early adopter of Fuji emulsions during the 1980s, I also shot alongside and continued to do so smaller amounts of Kodak film into the last decade.
I remember well the hold Kodak film had on people who were quite venomous about those alternative little green boxes when they first appeared. Such was the brand loyalty of Kodak.
Incidentally the name was thought up as it would sound the same in any language. So marketing is not the recent demon we may think it is.
But even before then my relationship with Kodak was not uncommon. 126 and 110 mass market cameras, 127 mm roll film, 120 mm roll film, large format sheet film, and of course 135 mm film.
Kodachrome, Ektachrome Technical Pan, Tri-X were all films I new well and used lots, too name just some. Later Panther and Gold emulsions were used as well. In fact I still have a number of rolls. I omit the processing and paper products only due to space.
But for me, I think I first wondered about the companies direction when they introduced Disk cameras, remember them?
It was again another marketing fanfare. This one told the world here was a very small film format with superior image qualities. It was based on ‘T’ Grain technology from the T Max films I think, which had rightly been acclaimed for its performance in high speed 35 mm emulsions.
But it did not make sense to me in such a small film size. And sure enough, Disk cameras after a massive initial sales period backed with expensive advertising soon went, in relative terms compared to say 110 mm and 126 mm formats..
Kodak’s attempts to re invigor the ‘snap’ market were a nice idea. We were in for another new approach with APS film cameras a bit later.
And although APS sized digital sensors are used today, I am not sure about the film cameras and emulsions. Many other companies were also enticed onboard. Do you remember Nikon Pronea to name one?
So while it is not yet clear what the future holds, let me say in all seriousness that for those last negative comments, when it comes to it, I like many, hold Kodak in affectionate terms based on what their products have enabled me to achieve and the memories they have given.
And nothing would be more pleasing than to see it resurgent and again take its place in serious photography.
Should the call come to take over and head up its revival, I would certainly give it serious thought:). I only have to look at the thousands and thousands of Kodak images I have shot to appreciate the influence it has had on my career.
In truth though, pro photographers have been using Kodak products regularly in the digital age but not so obviously.
For example, the sensors in some products such some as Phase One backs and Pentax 645D cameras I believe came from the companies fabrication options.
And less than a decade ago many looked at the Nikon body based TC14N and C cameras for example, full frame (35mm) digital cameras.
Finally, I have written this from memory, so hope I have not got any of the details wrong.
But I would just like to add that working for Kodak were some of the finest technical brains I have ever met. So I would like to thank them all (you know who you are), as you were a pleasure to meet and deal with and inspirational in what you did.
Let us see how things pan out, but you would surely like to see this company bounce back?