The company made us all amateur photographers, by producing cameras and film that were affordable to the average family. No longer did families have to turn to a professional photographer for a posed shot. The ultimate example of this? Neil Armstrong taking a picture of fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin – on the moon.
On Thursday, after years of falling stock prices and a crucial misstep of ignoring the digital wave, Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The news is leaving photographers feeling nostalgic about the company's impact on the history of photography – and looking back on their own personal Kodak moments:
"There was always a nervous moment when you'd take your processed film from the developing tank and start to unroll the first few inches from its reel. Still dripping wet, you'd hold the film up to the light and look for signs that all went well. Even before you'd see your very first frame, there above the perforations the word KODAK would tell you everything was okay."
- Moe Doiron, Globe staff photographer
"My first camera was a Kodak and I used mostly their film. ... The film came in these cartridges that I thought were pretty interesting that you would just pop open the back and slap in this magazine. You'd take photographs and weeks later, even months later sometimes, you would get the photographs back and sort of relive the experiences that you had when taking the photograph. That type of anticipation I thought was interesting, I think that's one thing that's gone with digital."
- Stephen Bulger, curator for Stephen Bulger Gallery
"Several binders stored carefully in my office at home hold the hundreds of slides I first shot as a beginning amateur photographer. Using slide film was a great way to learn about light and exposure and perhaps it made me feel a little more like I was destined to one day work for National Geographic. Most of those early images were shot on [Kodak film]and I still look back on them fondly – not so much for the images themselves, but for the memories they wake in me."
-Peter Power, Globe staff photographer
"Kodak put photography into the hands of the families. You could record your baby's first steps, to your wedding, to all kinds of parties and celebratory events. People were engaged with recording. You had your pictures, you had to wait for them and there was a certain amount of excitement ... I think the nostalgia is the very fact that you had these objects, you could look forward to them ... and you documented life as it was unfolding."
- Maia-Mari Sutnik, curator of photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario
"Around 30 years ago, I put my first roll of Kodak film [Panatomic X]in a borrowed camera and thus began the love affair with photography and shooting film. Today, it's nothing but Tri X in my Leica. Like most photographers, I've had days where things just don't work out. Put fixer in the developing tank instead of developer? Yep, once. Forgot to load film properly? Yep, happened on a Globe assignment while out of town. I was having a great time capturing some wonderful moments, rewound the film and I knew right away, as my heart sank, that the leader never caught and all those photos were lost in time. Fortunately, the subject felt my pain and let me continue, trying in vain to recapture on film what could never be repeated."
-Fred Lum, Globe staff photographer
"[Canadian Press] in an economy drive, decided to use the Ilford film. Of course, the Ilford film was not good enough for Ottawa and Parliament Hill, it was too grainy. ... It used to cost $20 extra for 20 rolls of [Kodak]film and I said to my boss, '$20 isn't a lot of money. I would be happy to take the Ilford film back to the camera store, trade it in on Kodak, and pay the other $20 out of my pocket. After all, that $20 is only one hour of overtime.' ... So he said 'Okay, you can continue using Kodak in Ottawa.'"
- Peter Bregg, photojournalist
"I remember the first time I experienced bulk rolling Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film. It was in a photography class, I believe I was about 16 and had never seen a bulk roller, bulk film or the little canisters that, if they weren't properly sealed, would have their ends pop off. I helped with loading the film into the bulk loader, which had to be done in the dark and once the bulk roller was sealed you were ready to start rolling your film. ... The reason of course for all this effort, as I learned later, was that it was a heck of a lot cheaper per roll of film – which was especially fitting for a bunch of high school kids fooling around with 35 mm cameras for the first time and making many mistakes."
- Deborah Baic, Globe staff photographer