Monday, March 22, 2010

An open letter to Kodak

Dear Kodak,

I just want to say up front that I hate photography. Unfortunately, I must take photographs as part of my job. It's fairly easy - black and white film, fine detail, close up 1:1 shots. However, you are making my life much more difficult than it needs to be.

In the beginning, it was fun. I was given a camera and some 35mm film and told to go out and take some photos. We even took a field trip to the state park nearby. I took some shots of the lake on the wildlife preserve near my apartment, and something odd happened when I developed my print, giving it an wonderful, ethereal quality. I was...intrigued. But then we got down to business, and I started taking those shots of evidence. Loading 4X5 film in the dark. Bracketing shots to get the right exposure. Developing the film by hand - takes too long to send it off to a processor. Learning to do everything by touch.

Of course, the honeymoon had to end sometime. Standing at a land camera setup for hours on end, taking shot after shot, trying to get them right. Standing in the darkroom for hours on end, trying to stay awake in complete blackness. Develop, agitate for 5-7 minutes, stop bath, fixer for 10. Go back and do it all again, because the shot wasn't exactly right. And the film. Well, it was awful. TMax - too much gray. CPO and Kodalith - good for contrast, but will not record shots taken with a laser, because those films don't see red or orange.

And then...and then I met TechPan. I loved it. And then I met Ektapan. I loved it even more. The contrast! The grayscale too! The development time! These films were wonderful. A UV shot that used to require a 3 minute exposure was now reduced to 30 seconds. Laser shots were a second or less. And the images were so clear - not like that muddy TMax. Development times of 30 seconds to 3 minutes. They were so wonderful.

But, Kodak, you screwed me over. You decided that we were no longer important - us film-using technophobes. (Well, we're not really technophobes - we just work for one of the most cash-deprived states in the US.) Anyway, film was not part of your business plan, so you started discontinuing things bit by bit. I understand. You were embracing the digital era. First to go was CPO. I didn't miss you much. Next was Ektapan My UV shots went long again. But I still had TechPan. And then you took away my Kodalith and TechPan. I had to resort to some film made in Czechoslovakia instead of my beloved TechPan! And the replacement for Kodalith doesn't even fit in our film holders. The film holders are a standard size - why can't the film makes figure that out?

I realize that 4X5 sheet film is not exactly a hot commodity, but we need this film. At least until our lab gets its digital equipment, anyway. Which will be next year at the earliest. If the state raises taxes or something. In the meantime, couldn't you have sold the formula for these films to a rival? It's not like you're going to go back in time, Kodak, and start making film again. Think of us - we who are stuck taking pictures for preservation of evidence! None of your former competitors can make a comparable product, and so we're the ones who suffer. Reopen production or sell your formula. Help us out. Please.


A Sad Forensic Scientist Who Hates Photography. And owns a Canon digital camera for home use.


  1. There are a great many sad astro-photographers, who have film in their fridges. I met one who bought an extra fridge to store the film he bought upon the discontinuation announcement.

  2. Hey, I heard about this! Did you know Brad Pitt is an avid photographer and is buying up all the stock of it that he can?


    I hope they help a clicker out, and re-make it for you. Or sell the formula. That's just greedy.

  3. Oh man!! Totally sucks! :( I agree, it's no wrong!

  4. Brad and kids, what will he go after next?

    Have you tried flooding their headquarters with emails inquiring about stock piles and explaining your situation? They might help you out during the transition to digital.

    I would love to know how to develop my own film, only now I'm digital. *shrug* Another lost art.

    Forensics...criminal, civil or both?

  5. This is terrible! I am so bummed for you, especially this is important stuff you are working on.

  6. Brad Pitt saves the day again? Damn.

    This post brought back all sorts of memories from high school photography where they had TMax purchased in bulk.

  7. *shakes fists at Kodak*

    Sorry, dude. That SUCKS.

  8. I am so copying this and sending to my dad. He is a retired photographer and will appreciate your words. But wow your home use camera is the shit man!

  9. Be careful of that czek film- probably made of aesbestos or something- also I was into film when I was younger (really before digital) and then was whole hog into digital, now trying to get back into film. It is very hard to come by though...

  10. My husband sympathizes!

  11. As much as I love the instant-ness of digital cameras, I still think there are somethings that ONLY film can work for. Good luck!!