We learned on August 20 that the Eastman Kodak Co, which pioneered the popularization of photography, has earned court approval to emerge from bankruptcy as a much smaller digital-imaging company specializing in commercial and packaging print. Big snore! It’s not photography news.
The name of the Rochester, NY company was for a century synonymous with photography. They manufactured film, paper, and cameras. They had development and printing laboratories worldwide. They made photography accessible to the masses – and parenthetically were responsible for its mediocritization. Kodak, based in Rochester, New York, was for years synonymous with household cameras and family snapshots.
It seems a paradox that high tech companies like Kodak and the Digital Equipment Corporation were borne of innovation, but then floundered by failing to embrace the next wave. In Kodak’s case the error was acute, as digital photography was invented by a Kodak engineer. When Steve Sasson in the applied research laboratory at Eastman Kodak built the first digital camera using a Fairchild CCD, he was told how clever it was, but to keep it all quiet. The rest as they say is history. The ultimate losers in all of this, needless-to-say, are the Kodak workers, many of whom have lost not only their jobs but their pensions.