There were rumors and predictions for a while, but today it’s official. Kodak, the company that revolutionized film photography and adopted digital photography early, has declared bankruptcy. The company has been struggling since the 1980s; I’m surprised it survived this long without filing Chapter 11.
That’s what the company chose to do today, with debt adding up to $6.75 billion.
I’ve been a fan of photography for many years, and I’ve begun taking this interest more seriously in the past few. I’ve taken a number of eight-week photography classes offered by a local arts organization, and the classes have been helping me improve my art. They have also inspired an interest in old-fashioned film photography. While I still use digital cameras (mostly a Canon 1D3, purchased used), I also use a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II medium format film camera, also purchased used. Just in the last month, I decided it would be more frugal and more fun to develop black-and-white film myself instead of spending the money to a professional lab nearby.
Despite owning all the equipment I have — in addition to various cameras I have studio equipment like lights and backdrops — my struggle is to find the time to focus on photography.
While Kodak will continue to operate during the company’s Chapter 11 reorganization, the future of some of the best Kodak products is uncertain. There is no great alternative for photographers who like using Ektar and Portra color film and Tri-X black-and-white film; competitors’ products, like those produced by Fuji or Ilford are different. Now could be a great time to stock up on Kodak film; if it becomes difficult to purchase, the value could increase. Film has a short shelf-life, but many photographers are fine with purchasing expired film.
Published or updated January 19, 2012.