Out with the Old . . . . Farewell, Kodak

Posted December 31st, 2012 by Candice

The other day I was idling at a traffic light beside Walgreens.  A sign staked in the berm said, One Hour Photo Processing.  Could I really get film processed in a local drugstore?  It wasn’t true.  The store used the back of that old sign to advertise Cokes on sale. 

This year we lost Kodak.   Not just the cameras and film, but the idea of Kodak.  Kodak has been compared to Gillette, a company famous for making cheap razors requiring pricey blades.  Yes, Kodak made cameras that needed Kodak film.  But those cameras were artfully designed devices that let anyone become a photographer.

The Kodak Brownie, named after the characters of Palmer Cox’s illustrations, was a wonderful camera.  My sister took the only childhood snapshot of me at home with her Brownie Target.  Although cameras were relatively inexpensive, our family couldn’t afford one for years, and when we did get a camera, it was a big deal to shoot a whole roll of film and then have it developed. 

We didn’t take pictures back then like we do now.   Nobody took a photo of their plate!  We brought the camera out on special occasions–holidays, birthdays.   In an episode of Mad Men, when Peggy Olson’s mother says, “Go get the Brownie,” she didn’t mean fetch dessert, but that it was time to record the priest’s visit to their home.

We didn’t have loads of photographs, either.  My mother’s album was four flip files that fit into a box.  Every time we went home, we would flick through pictures we knew by heart but wanted to see again–awkward poses, poor lighting, barely framed subject, looming photographer’s shadows, and all. 

When Kodak filed for Chapter 11 in January of this year, the writing was on the wall.  It didn’t seem to matter that this company had defined a century.  Now we have digital cameras (and phones!) that can do everything but our taxes. 

I too was eager to jump on the digital camera bandwagon.  I take pictures of plates and other insignificant things simply because I can.  However, I do unload my photos from the camera.  While I share pictures via this blog and email, I also print them out.  The computer screen is no substitute for an artifact I can hold in my hand. 

I’ll miss Kodak for enabling me to freeze special moments in my life, like my high school graduation, our wedding supper.  I’ll miss the bright yellow film boxes.  I’ll miss the ads.  The commercial I remember most featured a baby girl at a door.  As Paul Arnold sings “Turn Around,” we see the girl grow up in a series of snapshots.   

If you want to view that wonderful commercial, here’s the link.  Because I (still) can’t embed a video, the link will break from this post.  So watch it and come back to the blog, or read the rest of my post and play the commercial.  You will love this leisurely look back.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?  Where are you going, my baby, my own?

Turn around and you’re two . . .


Turn around and you’re four . . .

Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door

Where are you going my little one, little one?  Little dirdls and petticoats, where have you gone?

Turn around and you’re tiny, turn around and you’re grown.

Turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own.

Thanks, Kodak, for the memories.  I will tend them like rare orchids.



6 Responses to “Out with the Old . . . . Farewell, Kodak”

  1. Oh my gosh! Crying now. The song playing and seeing the little baby at the door. And seeing your beautiful family photos… It just triggered an emotional response.

    I like those cube box-like cameras. A film that I quite like “Where the heart is” has Natalie Portman’s character taking up an old rollei. I loved that camera the minute I saw it.

    It is a shame that the market for traditional film is drying up. Particularly as there is at some level still a market for it. There are plenty of pro photographers who still use film. But I guess we live in a world where it is big business, or no business at all.

    Happy New Year Candice.

    • Candice says:

      Happy New Year, Melissa! I should have warned you the commercial requires Kleenex. The photos of me and my sister and my nieces are simple, but treasured. That was my husband in the last photo, circa 1938.

      I love Rollei cameras! I’m about finished collecting the Brownie and Kodak cameras I was after, but now I want a beautiful Rollei!

      As of Dec. 20, Kodak put all its assets up for sale. Whether the film will still exist remains to be seen. There will always be some outlet for film photographers, but roll film will be expensive and labs to process will be few and also expensive. But that’s progress, right?

  2. Donna says:

    I am sad that I didn’t realize the value in pictures until I got old. Now, whenever my kids ask what I would like as a gift, I always ask to take their picture.

    Your family photos are classics and the shadows and light tell the story of your life. As for the fate of film and those analog cameras, perhaps they are down but not out. One can always hope.

    Happy New Year!

    • Candice says:

      I’ve been under the spell of old photos as long as I can remember. My grandmother had an album and I spent hours going through it, wondering about the people in the black and white pictures. I have those pictures now.

      We both know there will always be photographers who shoot and process roll film, but for us “average” people, that day is over. I do still have Frank’s One Step Polaroid in the box, never used, about 16 years old. I’m thrilled to have it!

      Happy New Year, Donna! Here’s to a year of pictures!

  3. On one of my last visits home, we went to a supermarket for my mom. The parking lot was quite full, and I remarked that we had parked right on top of where the old Fotomat would have been. I had to explain to my kids not only what a photo drive thru was for, but also how cameras used to have rolls of film inside. I felt like a dinosaur!

    • Candice says:

      Well, it’s not up there with the horseless carriage and iceboxes, but I know what you mean. I think all parents have had to describe some aspect of the olden days and feel ancient or at least creaky. But today’s changes are so rapid and invasive, leaving no room for the old ways, that we will all feel like dinosaurs even if we’re only 25. (“What??? You didn’t have the Internet?”)

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