Interesting news from the British Journal of Photography:
Kodak has announced that, as part of its “ongoing strategic review,” it will stop producing digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames, but will continue to invest in its film division
I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled about this announcement. After their declaration of bankruptcy, there was some serious concern among film users that film products would be first on the chopping block. For many of the years that film photography existed, Kodak was the big dog. It was all things to all photographers, and provided a huge variety of reliable products to all segments of the photographic market. However, when consumer digital photography came along, Kodak floundered as it tried to remain “all things to all photographers”, and ended up being nothing to anybody.
The fundamental problem was (and is) that digital photography is much less about taking pictures than it is about consumer electronics, which is something Kodak knew nothing about. As a result, they ended up outsourcing their cameras and electronics, and lacked a focused, core line of high-quality professional products around which a user base could form. But all that’s in the past now, and hopefully they’re setting much more realistic goals for themselves.
Now, I’m certain that this post is going to provoke at least one response along the lines of “film is dead” — and in a way it is, but there are lots of people (including yours truly) who still use and love it. I don’t use it for my professional work, because the turnover and workflow are just too slow for that kind of thing, but I still use it in my personal work. And so do a lot of other people — it’s still incredibly popular for fine art work.
When people hear that I still shoot film, they feel compelled to lecture me about all the benefits of digital: it’s faster / you have instant feedback / you can share it easily. All of those are true, but also true are my counterarguments: I want to work slow / I don’t want instant feedback — I know my camera well enough to know if it’s going to work / I’m not ready to share it yet.
Often, I end up comparing the film vs. digital debate to the difference between oil paint and acrylics. Acrylics have many advantages over oils: they mix easier, clean up easier, dry faster and they are cheaper. But there are things you can do with oils that you can’t do with acrylics: namely, you can’t spend a week retouching a painting while it’s still wet, you can mix many more pigments with oil, and finally nothing else has the depth and richness of an oil painting. Likewise, nothing else looks like a silver print from film. A well-made silver print on high-quality fiber paper (with maybe a touch of selenium toning) is a rich and stunning thing to behold. On top of all that, the process of developing and printing film photographs is one of the most enjoyable experiences I can think of, and I never want it to go away.
So, I’m hoping this announcement means that Kodak will turn it’s attention to the only loyal market it really has: film photographers who love Kodak film and chemicals (I’m a Plus-X/X-Tol man myself), and reaffirm its dedication to making these great products.
Also, bring back HIE!