In 1889 George Eastman began a legacy that, sadly, my children probably won’t inherent: “You press the button, we do the rest.” Thus, the “Kodak Moment” was born.
Advance the roll to 2012 and Kodak’s stock dropped below $1 on the NYSE and they declared Chapter 11 protection and the concept of advancing a roll is all but a phrase of little meaning for many with nostalgia being its only tie to modern culture.
When the Kodak company made the camera commonplace in every household over the last century they did more than sell a product to us, they helped shape who we were as a society. For the first time in human history moments were being captured in all their rawness without the aid of artist or poet or musician interpreting it for us.
We, as people, were empowered. Image-making, once held to that of professionals, was now a commoners task. Anyone could capture the moment, and do so in breath-taking detail on film. Anyone could fasten their eye’s image seemingly permanently on any ceremony from a birth to a birthday, from a graduation to a wedding, but more importantly the common moments, the ones not traditionally captured could be held fast, forever. Anyone could decide that this, whatever this was to them, should be remembered and shared.
As beings, we are visual, but the personal camera took that idea to an obsessive level. In-as-such a company like Kodak that put such much emphasis on the act of capturing that memory, that emotion, that imagery, that “moment” helped define our relationship with pictures in a new way. They weren’t just someone else’s picture, they were our photographs, our stories, our family, our history.
Kodak’s business model was similar to that of razors. In providing an inexpensive camera and then turning large margins from consumables such as film, chemicals, paper, flash bulbs, etc. Kodak was able to introduce personal photography to the masses and still derive a strong corporate experience. The foresight to discount the camera to increase adoption that drove personal photography’s success.
For anyone that remembers film cameras you remember then with mixed emotions. Never again will there be the excitement of waiting to get a roll of film developed and reliving those memories. Never again will there be the agony of poorly exposed photos that you can never retake. Never again will there be that tangible feeling of holding those crinkly edged aged prints or a photo fresh out of the chemical bath. Never again will there be ruined prints because of oily fingers or fighting with those chemical baths in the first place. Never again will you squint through a view finder