04 January 2009

Local News ~ Kodak Film

I grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a company town. The dominant employer was General Electric and the population was about 75,000 when I was in high school. At this juncture GE has at best a shadow presence in the town and, over the years, I have watched as it sold off this or that portion of its facilities to various other companies, each of which implemented a downsizing as it took over. Now the town is depressed and depressing. I'd guess the population is a third of what it was when I was a kid there.

So I find it interesting to watch Rochester, where I now work, going through the largely same process. Here, though, the company is blog-related - Kodak. This story about Kodak's declining film business and the onslaught of digital photography appeared in the local paper today. I am generally not too interested in the technical aspects of photography and I am actively disinterested in the debate over film versus digital. But the profitability of production processes for film and paper has an impact on the work photographers can do. And it is worth thinking about the political economy of photography in that broader sense.

The local paper is largely a waste - I do not subscribe - and this piece seems to me to be an effort to paste a smiley face on an incredibly dire economic future for Kodak and for Rochester.
PS: (Added later that same day.) On a related note, here is Michael Kimmelman waxing nostalgic in The New York Times last weekend about the demise of Polaroid. But as I admitted here some time ago, I've never gotten the attraction of Polaroids..

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