Started in 1889, the Eastman Kodak Company has been part of all our lives. Much like today’s generation where terms like “Google” means search, or “Facebook me” means get in touch, the “Kodak moment” has been part of all of our lives, and has always meant a special moment in time that has been captured on film.
Being a photographer, and one who was taught using film and processing my own film (and subsequently spending years in the dark), I can speak from my own experience and say that film is officially dead. I remember my days in art school, and if you were in the photography program, the darkroom was your night club. We would spend days, nights, weeks in the darkroom. The ones who were “serious” about photography would make photographs on film, and process their own film and make their own prints. Digital was emerging, but if you were serious about photography, you shot on film.
Photographers have always imbued film with nostalgia and memories. The physical act of learning the craft of photography is a very intimate one, intertwined with memory, context, and content. Since my time at art school, digital photography has seen rapid transformation, and the technology has evolved to the point where today, quality is at a premium. Much like filmmakers who insist on shooting on 8 or 16mm, their time has come and passed. Digital technology has reached its tipping point, where cost and availability have made the old technologies obsolete.
We are now at the point where image making is so commonplace, it’s not a matter of who is doing it, it’s a matter of where to share your memories. We are so focused now on social media and living in a real-time network of status updates and images, that the craft of photography is now standing on its last legs. Technology has removed the barriers to those who did not learn the craft, making everyone a photographer, and memories everywhere. So with the old technologies now obsolete, photographers can now focus on what is most important, creating content, making images, and sharing their stories with the world.
Sure, you can still tell the difference between a photographer and a hobbyist or your average joe shooting on his/her smartphone. Photographers have a natural understanding of composition, light and framing, and are able to produce photographs that still amaze others. Photographers do not depend on Instagram filters, or HDR to make an image interesting (but heck, they are sure fun to play with). They still have the eye for photography that sets them apart in this image obsessed world. But we have changed as people. Immediacy is more important than time, and instant gratification is key. You want to snap a photo, apply a filter, upload it to Facebook as fast as your smartphone will let you. You want to share your photos, and can do so instantly and to anywhere in the world in a moment. You would rather pick up a chair from Ikea than have one hand-crafted.
With the passing of Kodak, a little piece of every photographer has died, but it’s more of the process of photography for photographers, that will be missed. Today’s kids probably won’t even know who Kodak were, and more importantly, they couldn’t care less. As a photographer, I certainly won’t miss the cost of buying film in bulk, or spending every cent on chemicals, paper, and equipment. I will however miss the process or shooting, processing, printing, and then sharing. So maybe the ‘Kodak moment’ hasn’t really died with the passing of Kodak… maybe it has just begun. With technology giving everyone the means to make photographs, we suddenly find ourselves on an even plane… and quality of content will become even more important.
I’m sure many will miss the excitement of running to the local photomat, picking up your prints, and the excitement of seeing what you captured appear before your eyes. Ask any photographer who has ever processed their own film, and they will all tell you that there is simply nothing quite as amazing as watching your film process, and seeing a chemical bath make your images come to life. But it’s now time for us traditionalists to accept technology, embrace it, and move forward telling the stories we have always told, just with a new and improved medium.
Now on to our next challenge, managing our digital lifestyle. We will cover this in future posts. Let us know what you think about where photography is headed, and what you will miss from the Kodak moments of the past.