My heart sank when I heard the news. Not because I am a relative of George Eastman, founder, or have any ties with Kodak, but what I read seemed to me to be the death of an American Icon. After one hundred and thirty one years of business, Kodak was claiming Chapter 11. They say that Chapter 11 gives a company the chance to reorganize. In the camera industry, Kodak has always been a giant in my eyes. This was the enterprise that invented roll film, no matter that it only produced black and white photos.
My love affair with Kodak began with the Brownie 127 that my dad kept tucked away
from us kids. (Today toddlers have digital cameras they’ve already learned to operate.) It was just a box camera with a simple lens and a small shutter, and millions were sold. It was easy to operate and inexpensive, costing only $1.00 and with the Brownie came Kodak’s promise that “You push the button, we’ll do the rest.”
I think that all of the photos taken when I, my two brothers and sister were kids was taken by the Kodak Brownie. I don’t recall the camera being brought out for many occasions, hardly when a new baby was born, but maybe at Easter time when we were dressed with new Spring outfits and ready for church. One photo, on the front porch steps shows me, my brothers, and baby sister, held by my mother. From the looks of the outfits it must have been Easter! Dad was out front of the gang with his head looking into the Brownie camera. Another photo, undoubtedly taken with a Brownie, was of myself standing by the front steps (I don’t know what it was about steps) of my grandparents’ cottage at Harvey’s Lake. They had bought me a bathing suit, and there I stand dressed in it and a bathing cap, those ugly things everyone wore then. Something
else completed the outfit, an inflatable tube around my waist so I wouldn’t drown. Now Kodak is drowning!
When our own family was young, we enjoyed a variety of cameras, and sorry to say they were not always Kodak. I remember a used, German make, one that had a fast shutter. With this one, my husband tried taking photos of trains in motion. Our next choice was the amazing Polaroid camera, with it we immediately saw what we took and had no need to make a trip to the drug store and wait for developing. First the Polaroid film was black and white and although people thought it couldn’t be done, a man by the name of Edwin H. Land invented color film which could be developed right inside the camera. We still have a few Polaroid photos that have not faded. Then we made the switch to color slide cameras, and stayed with them for many years. We used one of these to document a vacation only to find when the back of the camera was opened the film had not moved from one side to the other. That meant no pictures! Projecting slides up on the wall for a room full of viewers to watch was great. However, we now have hundreds of slides we wish were converted to digital. Many cameras have ‘bit the dust’ at our house, and many are collecting dust on shelves. Our favorite now is not a Kodak, but a Cannon digital, single lens reflex. Maybe our choice of cameras today is one reason why Kodak is having difficulty making ends meet. Surely nothing will ever outshine the capabilities of this camera. Only time will tell.
In an increasingly digital world, what will become of Kodak? It has struggled to remain relevant and has aspired to be a digital printing specialist. There appears to be ongoing patent wars as Kodak tries to sell its digital imaging patents, used in Smart Phones. One of its greatest opponents is Apple.
Competition makes the world go-round and helps keep prices down but it also makes it hard for some businesses to survive. As for me, I hope Kodak does.