Kodak Failing, But Camera Phones Not To Blame

Referencing the Slashdot story below regarding Kodak’s impending demise, I think there is a greater tragedy at play here. If I want to see photos of relatives, many of whom are no longer living, all I have to do is dig out photo albums and shoeboxes full of photos. I can get a glimpse of their lives with relative ease. I don’t have to have a piece of equipment to view them, they are readily available on a more-or-less permanent media. Fast forward to, say, fifty years from now. Will anyone be able to view any of the hundreds or thousands of photos that my family will take digitally and store electronically? I fear not. Unless someone actively moves the files to whatever the current storage formats and media are at any given time, then the effort to take the photos was in vain (when viewed from a long-term perspective).

Kodak Failing, But Camera Phones Not To Blame: An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from The Conversation: “According to the Wall Street Journal, camera manufacturer Kodak is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following a long struggle to maintain any sort of viable business. The announcement has prompted some commentators to claim that Kodak’s near-demise has been brought on by: a failure to innovate, or a failure to anticipate the shift from analogue to digital cameras, or a failure to compete with the rise of cameras in mobile phones. Actually, none of these claims are true. Where Kodak did fail is in not understanding what people take photographs for, and what they do with photos once they have taken them.”

Continues the reader: “Looking at camera data from Flickr, of images uploaded in 2011, camera phones only make up 3% of the total. Dedicated cameras from Canon, Nikon and yes, Kodak were used to take 97% of the images. What Kodak failed to understand is that people have switched from taking photos for remembering and commemorative reasons to using photos for identity and communication. The shift changes the emphasis away from print to social media platforms and dedicated apps.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

I think of people who invested in 8 tracks in the 70’s. How do they listen to that music now? They re-buy it as MP3s or whatnot. We cannot repurchase lost memories. And unfortunately, we might not be able to take analog photos and have them printed for many more years. Taking photos on film already is, from my layman’s perspective, been relegated to niche status. Once the means to easily develop film goes away, then the ability to retain those memories for generations will be as elusive as a family photograph in the 1860s (Hyperbole? I don’t mean it to be.). The difference being that back then, there was limited means of taking a photograph at all. Now there is ample means of taking a photograph, but limited medium on which to permanently record it.

So it’s sad to see what is happening to Kodak when viewed in a different light than just seeing a business who can’t change it’s model to stay competitive. We’ve overlooked the thing that so many generations now have enjoyed about photos: longevity.

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