Wednesday 17 January 2018

David Usborne: The end of an era ... when it all went wrong for Kodak

EARLIER this month I committed an act that will seem to many unthinkable, possibly even heretical. I was selling a house, and needed to make a decision about some of my less cherished possessions. One of them was a photograph album, begun after I left school and filled by the end with a long holiday taken after my first year at university. For the first time in maybe 15 years I flicked through images of people I will never meet again, of places in communist Eastern Europe whose names I have forgotten, of haircuts and clothes I have no wish putative grandchildren to see.

Reader, I added the album to a carload of flotsam, drove to the municipal recycling dump and hurled it into the ravenous jaws of a skip marked “general waste”. Goodbye, gap year. Goodbye, forgotten friends. Goodbye, striped seersucker bumfreezer jacket, mystifyingly purchased in a Florence flea market. You will not be missed.

All of those photographs, like the vast majority of billions of photographs in similar albums across the world, were shot on Kodak film. In a very real sense, without the Kodak film released from the plastic Kodak cylinder and fed into the Kodak cameras of two or three or four generations of amateur snappers, our past would not exist to enthral – or bore – generations to come.

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