Vale, Big Yellow

And so it ends. While Kodak has been in its death throes for many years, the announcement of their intention to sell off their iconic consumer film division marks the end of an era.

Kodak Film

It’s the end of an era for “Big Yellow” as Kodak seeks buyers for its consumer film division. Photo: Richard Plumridge

Kodak’s press release containing this news was rather euphemistically headlined “Kodak Takes Next Steps toward Successful Emergence”. While this announcement is unlikely to see the Kodak name disappear entirely from the shelves, it may mean the end of consumer emulsions produced in Rochester, N.Y. Kodak claims they will only sell divisions to companies that share their “commitment to serving customers”. Theoretically, any company that bids to purchase Kodak’s film assets will continue to sell Kodak products. Or, as with other notable film companies that have been sold and resold, such as Agfa and Polaroid, the Kodak brand may appear on future film products made by other manufacturers.

The big winners from the sale are likely to be Kodak’s former competitors, Fujifilm and Ilford. Ilford offers a broad range of black and white emulsions that will likely be of interest to users of Kodak Tri-X, although many photographers would no doubt want to see the famous Kodak emulsions continue. Fujifilm offers a range of colour films, including colour negative and colour reversal.

This is a sad and sorry end for the company that helped open up photography to masses, revolutionise an industry, invent the digital camera and create its own ubiquitous and eponymous “moments” shared by people the world over. Kodak is now set to focus on consumer inkjet printing and specialty film and chemistry. The next battlefront for Kodak may be the sale of their patent portfolio, of interest to large tech firms such as Samsung and Apple.

What are your memories of Kodak? What does the sale of their film division mean for the future of film photography? Is Kodak still important to film? Post your comments below.

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Richard McKenzie • August 30, 2012

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