As film giant Kodak files for bankruptcy protection, everyone from photographers to economists is looking back at the company that was, for so long, synonymous with American photography. The company has entered the US ‘Chapter 11’ process by which a court oversees its restructuring and protects it from its creditors as it attempts to reorganize into a profitable business. However it emerges from the process, Kodak will never again be the photographic titan it was during the film era. This has prompted many retrospective articles, including a heartfelt and personal piece by New York Times writer and photography blogger David Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, The Economist has also published two interesting pieces on the company: the first comparing its fortunes with those of its Japanese peer Fujifilm, and a blog post looking at how large companies struggle with technology changes. The irony of Kodak’s dedication to research and development helping give birth to the technologies that saw its downfall is widely remarked upon.
Kodak has recently whipped-up a flurry of litigation against large electronics companies using the basic digital imaging processes it created. As well as creating the first commercial DSLR (the Kodak DCS), the company invented many of the technologies on which modern cameras are based (and its patents have raised over $3bn in revenue since 2003). No matter what happens to the company, it should be remembered that Kodak wasn’t just the company to create the 20th Century icon ‘Kodachrome,’ it’s also the company that created the Bayer color filter array that underpins the overwhelming majority of digital cameras used across the world.