Posted: January 22, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, 2012 primaries, Baby Boomers, Central Intelligence Agency, court rulings, First Amendment, morning reads, SCOTUS, SOPA, the internet | Tags: bankruptcy, Chapter 11, CIA, Copyright, Digital Technology, film, Hollywood, Kodachrome, Kodak, Modern Art, Motion Picture, Photography, Popcorn, Public Domain, Roger Ebert, Supreme Court
Well, we all knew that the Newt Master was going to take South Carolina. So if its alright with you, I’d like to avoid all that Primary fodder and spend today’s morning reads on items associated with film. Real Film. The kind that has gone the way of 8–Tracks and buggy whips.
The past few weeks we have seen companies file bankruptcy left and right. (Personally, I cannot understand how the company that gave us the Twinkie and Wonder Bread failed so miserably. I mean, in this land of milk and Hohos…or if you prefer, Ding Dongs, how can Hostess not succeed?)
However, there was one company who filed for Chapter 11, that should have seen the writing on the wall.
In his 1973 hit song Kodachrome, Paul Simon warned everyone who had a Nikon camera and loved to take a photograph that everything looks worse in black and white.
You can colour him prophetic. Eastman Kodak, maker of the Kodachrome colour slide film immortalized by Simon, filed for bankruptcy protection and was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.
Here’s some history for you:
Between its humble beginnings as a two-man partner-ship formed 132 years ago and now the most humbling of denouements, the Kodak brand enjoyed immense popularity, exercised social influence and wielded corporate power. In 1930, Kodak joined the stable of blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average listings. At Kodak’s peak of market dominance in the mid-1970s, 90 per cent of the film and 85 per cent of the cameras sold in the United States were theirs. The user-friendly, low-tech, point-and-shoot Kodak Instamatic, its top-of-the-line version complete with flashcubes, was omnipresent in Canada too through the 1960s and ’70s, and it acted as something of a democratizing social force. Rich or poor, everyone could be a shutterbug, and people of all ages were forever churning through Kodacolor 126 film cartridges.
At the same time, Kodachrome saturated the 35mm market and all those Nikon cameras were capturing the nice bright colours, preserving the greens of summer, making people think all the world was a sunny day, oh yeah – just like the song said.
By 1983, the little company that George Eastman and Henry Strong founded in Rochester, N.Y., about a century earlier had 60,400 people on its payroll and was the quintessential portrait of an American success story.
It has been reported that Kodak got too fat and sassy at that point, its management too complacent at the top of the photography industry to keep innovating in order to fend off rivals like Japan’s Fuji Corp., many of them leaner and hungrier and more than capable of stealing market share. Fuji became the official camera and film of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics – setting up shop in Kodak’s back yard as it were – and the foothold gained in the U.S. market through that one strategic partnership was incredibly valuable.
Strangely, Kodak was slow to read the writing on the wall and as the rest of the industry wholeheartedly embraced the advent of digital technology, too much of Kodak’s identity, inventory and infrastructure was still tied up in film, a throwback commodity that was becoming obsolete. They believed in its staying power, as this statement from Kodak corporate literature suggests.
“While electronic or digital technologies will continue to provide many enhancements for home and commercial use, film will remain the highest quality medium for image capture well into the 21st century.”
Yes, film is the quintessential medium to capture an image, but unfortunately the public has become a digital technology consumer. Film, records, videos, books…the list goes on. Everything is there at your fingertips. Literally. Just swipe your index finger along a touch screen and voila…you can watch, listen or read anything that tickles your fancy. So as the article concludes:
So it was not Mama who took our Kodachrome away, as Simon feared all those years ago, it was digital technology.
Now that Kodak has bankruptcy protection, the company has a year to reorganize. Bankruptcy protection: Kodak gets a year to reorganize – CSMonitor.com
Girded by a $950 million financing deal with Citigroup Inc., the photography pioneer aims to keep operating normally during bankruptcy while it peddles a trove of digital-imaging patents.
After years of mammoth cost-cutting and turnaround efforts, Kodak ran short of cash and sought protection from its creditors Thursday. It is required under its bankruptcy financing terms to produce a reorganization plan by Feb. 15, 2013.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in New York gave Kodak permission to borrow an initial $650 million from Citigroup.
He also set a June 30 deadline for Kodak to seek his approval of bidding procedures for the sale of 1,100 patents that analysts estimate could fetch at least $2 billion. No buyers have emerged since Kodak started shopping them around in July.
Through negotiations and lawsuits, Kodak has already collected $1.9 billion in patent licensing fees and royalties since 2008. Last week, it intensified efforts to defend its intellectual property by filing patent-infringement lawsuits against Apple Inc., HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics and Fujifilm Corp.
Kodak is also involved another high figure dispute at the US International Trade Commission, with Apple and Blackberry’s maker Research in Motion, Ltd. regarding image preview technology.
Kodak is hoping to see a billion dollar settlement from the trade disputes, however the decision has been put off until September.
The Independent had this to say about Kodak and Chapter 11: The moment it all went wrong for Kodak
When companies go bust, we, the customers, rarely pay much heed. It’s all about judges, restructuring and then, if they are lucky, their re-emerging in some shrunken form to carry on as if nothing had happened. Not so in the case of Kodak, which is now taking the walk of ignominy to the bankruptcy courts.
For this is a company we care about – at least if we were born before 1986 or so, when Kodak was at the peak of its commercial powers. A hundred years earlier George Eastman, the company’s founder, had invented roll film, which replaced photographic plates and allowed photography to become a hobby of the masses. Kodak did not quite own the 20th century, but it did become the curator of our memories.
“One of the interesting parts of this bankruptcy story is everyone’s saddened by it,” notes Robert Burley, professor of photography at Ryerson University in Toronto. “There’s a kind of emotional connection to Kodak for many people. You could find that name inside every American household and, in the last five years, it’s disappeared.”
I think that is a fair assessment, it is a sad thing to read about Kodak filling for bankruptcy because so much of our lives can be connected to a Kodak Moment…My family has boxes and boxes of Kodak Moments. Those cherished photos tucked away will remain, eventually fading into a yellowed memory that can be touched and held in your fingertips. Only to be replaced by a memory stick and a glossy printout, very sad indeed.
Here are a few links for you that honor the thing we call film…Kodachrome…A fond farewell to Kodak.
Eastman Kodak black and white film, negatives, film development reels and black and white prints. Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters
I’ve wanted to write something about the imminent demise of Kodak since rumours about their bankruptcy started circulating a couple of months ago. But it wasn’t until I caught a repeat of British fashion photographer Rankin’s TV programme about Time magazine’s veteran photojournalists that something really caught my eye, taking me back to my early experience of being a photographer. It brought home what Kodak meant to me.
The documentary includes a clip of an old BBC Omnibus film about the great war photographer and Life staffer Larry Burrows, who returned time and again to Vietnam to document the war, and eventually died there. Here he was, I guess early in the morning, getting ready to go out for the day, sitting and talking about his experiences to the film crew while opening box after box of Kodak film. He was taking out those lovely, tiny, dome-topped tin canisters and chucking the boxes at his feet until it formed a veritable pile of discarded cardboard.
That was the thing about shooting on film and printing on paper: every time, it felt fresh. Fresh film, chilled from a fridge. Box fresh, beautifully packaged by Kodak in cute yellow boxes that opened with one thumb, perforated in exactly the right place. It was photographic paper that seemed somehow less greasy than the Ilford equivalent when it slipped through your fingers in the developing tray. It was printing paper packed in stylishly thin and flat boxes, in the same yellow Kodak livery. Was it really more contrasty than the competition? Were the blacks deeper, or did it just feel better when soaked through?
When Kodak stopped making their Kodachrome film in 2010, the company issued this press release and tribute. Take some time to look at the images, some of them like the one below will obviously be recognized as photographs which defined a mood, a moment, a war, a life…
Kodak: A Thousand Words – A Tribute to KODACHROME: A Photography Icon
They say all good things in life come to an end. Today we announced that Kodak will retire KODACHROME Film, concluding its 74-year run.
It was a difficult decision, given its rich history. At the end of the day, photographers have told us and showed us they’ve moved on to newer other Kodak films and/or digital. KODACHROME Film currently represents a fraction of one percent of our film sales. We at Kodak want to celebrate with you the rich history of this storied film. Feel free to share with us your fondest memories of Kodachrome.
© Steve McCurry
Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984.
I’ve had the profound privilege of working with the world’s greatest photographers in my role here at Kodak. I serve as the company’s liaison with the pro community, and I’ve gotten to know the best of the best. Each one has their Kodachrome story.
Please read those stories…and,
View our slideshow of great KODACHROME moments.
Another farewell to Kodachrome, this time from CBS Sunday Morning:
They are fast becoming a memory of Christmas past – photographs taken the old way, with film. And the most famous film of all — Kodachrome — is itself about to become a memory, as CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.
Professional photographer Kent Miller is up before sunrise making sure everything’s perfect for his photo shoot. He wants to capture a triathlete named Carlos Lema at the foot of the George Washington Bridge just across the river from Manhattan in just the right light at dawn.
His film of choice, as it has been for millions of others, is Kodachrome.
“Kodachrome is probably the first professional film I ever really shot,” Miller said.
A professional photographer for more than 20 years, Miller shoots mostly digital now. But this is a job for film, and not just any film – Kodachrome.
“It just reproduces colors in a way that most other films never did, and it lasts forever,” Miller said. “It’s something that is difficult to do with just shooting digital until you bring it in to Photoshop and resaturate and do all your work in there. But just straight out the camera it doesn’t have that density and dynamic ranges as the Kodachrome does just naturally.”
Todd Gustavson is the curator of technology at the Eastman House – Kodak’s museum in Rochester, N.Y.
“It’s a baby boom product,” he said. “After World War II – availability of new automobiles, national parks were open – and people were able to have some time to travel and of course now there is a this new color film which you could use to document your family vacations and then of course come back and show your friends and neighbors your slides on your carousel or Kodak slide projector.”
Back in 2010, when this story was reported, the last place on earth who could develop the Kodachrome film was on its last week of production.
Kodachrome isn’t a do-it-yourself kind of film. Those long-lasting brilliant colors are the result of a unique developing process involving special chemicals only Kodak makes – or made to be more precise.
It isn’t something you can develop in your basement darkroom.
“The real difference between Kodachrome and all the other color films is that the dyes that make up the image you see in the film, in Kodachrome, don’t get incorporated into the film until it is actually developed,” explained Grant Steinle, who now runs the business his father started .
They’re sad at Dwayne’s, but not at all surprised. They’ve been watching their Kodachrome business shrink, even as other labs stopped processing Kodachrome and Dwayne’s became the only place people from around the world could send their film to be developed.
They’re still doing 700 rolls a day, but that’s not nearly enough demand to convince Kodak to make more chemicals. They’ve got just enough for another week.
“It’s going to be really sad day, it was an important part of our business and Kodachrome was an important part of the history of all of photography,” Grant Steinle said. “To know it was the first consumer color film that was available. Lots of really iconic images of the 20th century were captured on Kodachrome.”
Here are some wonderful images, captured on Kodachrome by one of the photographers for Vanity Fair. The Last Roll of Kodachrome—Frame by Frame! | Culture | Vanity Fair
Two years ago, photographer Steve McCurry heard the whispers. Due to the digital-photography revolution, Kodak was considering discontinuing one of the most legendary film stocks of all time: Kodachrome, a film which was to color slides what the saxophone was to jazz. McCurry spoke with Kodak’s worldwide-marketing wizard Audrey Jonckheer, hoping to persuade Kodak to bequeath him the very last roll that came off the assembly line in Rochester, New York. They readily agreed. And recently, McCurry—most famous for his National Geographic cover of an Afghan girl in a refugee camp, shot on Kodachrome—loaded his Nikon F6 with the 36-exposure spool and headed east, intending to concentrate on visual artists like himself, relying on his typical mix of portraiture, photojournalism, and street photography.
Herewith, presented for the first time in their entirety, are the frames from that historic final roll, which accompanied McCurry from the manufacturing plant in Rochester to his home in Manhattan (where he is a member of the prestigious photo agency Magnum), to Bombay, Rajasthan, Bombay, Istanbul, London, and back to New York. (The camera was X-rayed twice at airports along the way.) McCurry’s final stop, on July 12, 2010: Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kansas—the only lab on Earth that still developed Kodachrome—which halted all such processing in late December.
Now, these next links are not Kodachrome specific, but nevertheless, photos taken with film.
For some images of the The Iran Hostage Crisis, 31 Years Later — PICTURES – – NationalJournal.com
Jan. 20 marks the 31-year anniversary of the release of hostages from Iran. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days in the American Embassy in Tehran, in one of the most significant flash points in the long, tumultuous relationship between the two countries.
Gin and Tacos has some links to photo galleries in one of the blog’s latest post: ginandtacos.com » Blog Archive » NPF: TORCH-PASSING
NASA’s newly released, true color, hi-res scans of the photographs from the Gemini missions (pre-Apollo).
If space isn’t interesting to you, take a look through one of my other favorites, the Prokudin-Gorsky color photographs taken in Russia between 1900 and 1910. Or learn more about the pioneer of color photography here. It’s pretty difficult to convince your brain that this photo was taken in 1905, isn’t it?
Of course I must link to one of my favorite sites: Shorpy Historical Photo Archive | Vintage Fine Art Prints
More after the jump.
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