Monday, August 27, 2012
The Sky is Falling!
This past week Kodak has announced it will sell its Personalized Imaging and Document Imaging business units, to focus on commercial, packaging and functional printing solutions and enterprise services, ending Kodak's role as a consumer-facing photographic company. The Personalized Imaging business includes consumer film, while the Document Imaging business includes scanners and commercial document management.
For many of us this does not come as a surprise. Indeed, Kodak has been on a downward spiral for a number of years. In my case, they have stopped producing four black and white films that I counted on being available - Pan X, Plus X, Verchrome Pan, and HE Infra-Red. Years ago they closed out the enlarging papers that I had been using.
In fact, I have not used Kodak products in the last ten years. My non-use is certainly not the reason for their closings. Kodak seemed to lose contact with their base users and went their merry way. While early into digital capture, they decided that it was not the future for them. This, along with other strange business decisions, has led them to the above statement
Rather, other companies came along and filled my needs. Ilford, Fuji, and Efke made products that replaced, often improved over, the dropped Kodak offerings.
My personal guess is that the digital world has overtaken their consumer base. With cell phones and point and shoot cameras in almost every ones kit, the film world is long gone. Film has now joined the branch of photography called alternative.
Black and White film is for a different breed of photographer. The photographer that enjoys process as well as finished product. The photographer that wants to be in control from exposure to print.
Over the years, I have learned to make my own paper and to coat that paper with light sensitive materials to produce a visible print. Cyanotype/blueprints, VanDyke Brown prints, and gum prints are a few of the historic/alternative photographic processes that I have learned and used to produce finished "photographs". These early processes were replaced - in their day - by newer and easier methods. Flexible film came along and the "World of Kodak" - you push the button and we do the rest - was under way. Later along came the ability to produce color film and prints. Photography came a long way - from glass plate negatives to color film. Photography was reliably available and reached through out the world.
Along comes digital. While film is not quite dead, it is becoming an alternative process. Film will continue as long as enough folks continue to use it. It is the old question of supply and demand. Companies making film do it for profit. Users will use film for love. Not enough love means no profit and no film. While I can make paper and coat it to produce prints, I am unable to make film and coat it to produce negatives.
Update note: Efke has announced that they are closing down their film manufacturing plant. The machines are old, need repair, and updating. The costs to do this are more than the profit earned. Hence closure.
Sense the end it nearer than I thought.