Last week I heard that Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy and I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s no secret that this 131 year old company struggled to keep up as digital photography burst onto the scene, but it still saddens me. Of course, I’m part of the very same problem that I lament. During photography school in 2005, about 65% of my class had already switched over to digital, but I dug my heels in and shot only film on the most basic of cameras, my beloved Pentax K-1000. The school was in a slow transition; we shot slide film and Tri-X for the first half of the summer but at the halfway point, they no longer required us to shoot film and scan it to digitally edit; rather, the choice was ours. I held out until the final few weeks, and finally gave in and purchased a used Canon Digital Rebel. I felt like I was selling my soul, but over time I came to love the immediacy of the images, the histogram display to check exposure, the versatility of switching ISO on the fly, and the cost! Though I missed the excitement of picking up my slide film at the local camera shop (remember those?) and the thrill of placing them onto my light box, digital photography eliminated a lot of steps and expense. Of course, it brought on the problem of mastering Photoshop, but that can fill a whole different post. The transition was swift- my class was the final summer that used the darkrooms at photo school- now the film developing stalls are used for cell phone booths! I returned in 2010 for a week-long intensive on wedding photography and it was all digital, all the time! I sound like a nostalgic dinosaur to say this, but it saddens me that new photographers will never know the frustration of fumbling in the pitch black to roll film onto a developing reel, or conquering a finicky enlarger to burn and dodge a print. Or my ultimate favorite- the moment when you place your image in the darkroom developing tray and watch as your image appears through the liquid.
My days of buying rolls and rolls of Tri-x 400 Kodak film and filling my freezer with film rather than food are gone forever. Kodak claims they will still try to reinvent themselves, and I half heartedly hope that they can find a new niche. They have been criticized for not adapting quickly to the digital photography age and finding a way to be profitable in the market. But what I love about them is who they used to be and the past that they represent. But my nostalgia has no place in today’s market. What do you think- is film gone forever?
It’s not forever gone….yet. I admit I also refused to go digital while attending RMSP in 2005…. while sitting on a new digital Nikon! I have held on to all of my darkroom equipment thinking I might need it someday. Doubt it. Film will soon be a lost art form, but for those of us who once indulged will always have our negatives and prints we once cherished so much.