Christopher Bonanos, author of Instant: The Story of Polaroid, has authored a lengthy piece for the Washington Post on what Kodak — and whoever buys its film lines — can learn from the fall of Polaroid. The article offers some interesting facts about, and insights into, the film photography industry:
Yes, Polaroid and Kodak made hundreds of millions of cameras. But that was never their principal business: The hardware existed mostly to sell film. This is what business-school professors call the razor-blade model, pioneered by Gillette: The razor is sold at minimal profit or even given away, and the blades sell for years afterward at a healthy profit margin. Amazon does the same with the Kindle, selling it cheaply to encourage enthusiastic e-book buying.
More than anything else, Polaroid’s desire in the 1990s to keep film sales up and film factories humming was what killed the company. When it should’ve been diving into a variety of digital businesses, Polaroid doubled down on analog-film production, building new production equipment and trying to economize.
The business model Bonanos describes is also known as freebie marketing.
What Kodak could still learn from Polaroid [The Washington Post]
Image credit: razor blade by scottfeldstein
Stephen Dowling of BBC News has an interesting piece that tells the story of the Lomography movement and how it may be instrumental in saving film photography:
In 1991, a group of Austrian art students on a trip to nearby Prague found [...] a curious little camera [...] it produced pictures unlike anything they had seen before. The little camera was the Lomo LC-A – Lomo Kompact Automat, built in Soviet-era Leningrad by Leningrad Optics and Mechanics Association (Lomo) – and very soon a craze was born. It was an analogue Instagram in the days before digital photography.
This Lomo craze may have ended up helping save film photography from an untimely end. In 1992, the students set up Lomographic Society International, exhibiting shots taken on unwanted Lomos they had bought up from all over Eastern Europe. Then, in the mid-90s, having exhausted the supply of left-over Lomos gathering dust in Budapest, Bucharest or East Berlin, they went to the camera’s manufacturers [...] and persuaded them to restart production. The negotiations were helped along by the support of the city’s then deputy mayor, Vladimir Putin.
According to Dowling, there is speculation that Lomography is a potential suitor for Kodak’s film business that is currently for sale.
Did the Lomo camera save film photography? [BBC News]
Thanks for sending in the tip, Phil!
Image credit: LOMO LC-A e pensieri by hummyhummy
It’s seems like many photo enthusiasts are hating on Instagram and retro-filtered photos these days, but not photographer Richard Koci Hernandez. He has written a piece for CNN titled “Photographers, embrace Instagram,” in which he explains why he thinks that “Smartphones have ushered in a golden age for photography.”
Photography author Ben Long has a thought-provoking article over at CreativePro in which he argues that “all photos are manipulated” and that “there is no such thing as absolute truth in photography”:
All images are Photoshopped. Or Lightroomed, or iPhoto’d, or dodged, burned, re-touched, cross-processed, developed with more or less agitation in the tank, at warmer or cooler temperatures, and so on and so forth. This has been true since the beginning of photography.
Understanding the representational nature of photography will help you take better pictures because you’ll better understand how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of the medium.
But perhaps more importantly, it’s important to understand that all images are manipulated. Still photos are the dominant communication medium used for everything from entertainment to artistic expression, journalism to sales. Becoming a more informed, understanding viewer will make it easier to understand when and whether there’s any “truth” in the images put before you.
For similar discussions, check out this article by Mark Schacter and this video with Errol Morris.
All Photos Are Manipulated (via Reddit)
Image credit: Truth or Consequences by kxlly
Photographer Kenneth Jarecke has written up an interesting article on how Internet culture is hindering the development of people who want to get better at photography:
There’s nothing wrong with not being any good at photography. Everybody started out bad and none of us does all aspects of it well. But it’s a crying shame to want to be good at it, to spend time and money trying to be good at it, and not getting any better.
This isn’t like teaching a child to read. Positive reinforcement is your enemy. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers… hate you. Instead of taking ten seconds to say. “This doesn’t work. You need to do better”. They readily push that “like” button, because it’s easy and they hope to get the same from you, but also because they’re cowards.
His advice? “Seek out great photography. Devour it, and be suspicious of any undue praise.”
Chances Are, You Suck (via A Photo Editor)
Image credit: 310/365: Photo-tastic Sunday… by Derek E-Jay
Design director Wayne Ford has written up a great piece on the career of American photographer Arnold Newman, who was in the vanguard of the “environmental portrait” movement that emerged in the early 1940s.
By this point, [Alexey] Brodovitch — the indirect teacher — was very aware of the young photographers work and his growing reputation, and began assigning him regular portrait commissions for Harper’s Bazaar. One of these assignments was to photograph the Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, which resulted in one of Newman’s most iconic images, although at the time it was rejected for publication. ‘Sometimes, as with his famous image of Stravinsky, he would have to recreate a natural habitat artificially,’ remarks Huxley-Parlour, ‘so he expressed his essence by placing him at a grand piano in an editor’s apartment,’ creating a strong, hard, linear composition, ‘very much like Stravinsky’s music.’
Arnold Newman and the development of the ‘environmental portrait’ (via A Photo Editor)
Image credit: Photograph by Arnold Newman
The Economist has a fascinating piece looking at the similarities and differences between Kodak and Fujifilm, two juggernauts of film photography that took different paths when digital photography came around:
While Kodak suffers, its long-time rival Fujifilm is doing rather well. The two firms have much in common. Both enjoyed lucrative near-monopolies of their home markets: Kodak selling film in America, Fujifilm in Japan. A good deal of the trade friction during the 1990s between America and Japan sprang from Kodak’s desire to keep cheap Japanese film off its patch.
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. Why did these two firms fare so differently?
Last Friday, Kodak filed a lawsuit against Fujifilm alleging that the company had infringed on Kodak’s digital photography patents.
The last Kodak moment? [The Economist]
Image credit: Ammo for 合歡&清境 by 今 ゆっくりと 歩いていこう
CNNMoney has an interesting article on how the Kodak brand will likely survive even if the company itself declares bankruptcy:
Many potential buyers are also weighing the value of Kodak’s brand-name since there’s been a lot of talk that it may consider filing for bankruptcy. For now the company plans to restructure out of court.
Kodak’s brand name (not its patents) could easily generate more than double Polaroid’s sales price, said Jamie Salter, the CEO of Authentic Brands. “There are a lot of categories that Kodak could attach its name to. People would feel very comfortable using Kodak paper,” said Salter.
Like Polaroid, Kodak has brand cache all over the world offering potential buyers the opportunity to tap global markets.
The Polaroid brand name sold for $88 million in 2009 after Polaroid the company declared bankruptcy in 2008.
Why bankruptcy isn’t a brand killer [CNNMoney]
Image credit: Kodak Tri-X Pan 400 by Rubin 110
French magazine Réponses Photo has spilled the beans on the Nikon D4, one day ahead of its official announcement. A two-page scan from the magazine leaked onto the Internet, revealing photos of the camera and confirming the specs that we shared yesterday and last December. Some confirmed details: 16 megapixels, ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 50-204800), 51 autofocus points, 100% viewfinder coverage, 10-12fps, 91000 point metering system, 1080p video recording, CF/XQD card slots, 1.34kg weight, and a price of €5,800.
The London Evening Standard has published a fascinating article on a photograph captured by Getty photographer Oli Scarff, which shows a near-fatal stabbing that occurred during London’s Notting Hill Carnival back in August. After being published around the world, the photograph changed the lives of the subjects seen it it. The fleeing man was identified from the photo and sentenced to 4.5 years in jail, the policeman was criticized for his apparent indifference (a claim he disputes), and the man trying to trip the attacker was hailed as a hero but subsequently named as an ex-Russian police officer who was dismissed over murder allegations.
Fallout from a photograph that shocked London (via PopPhoto)
Image credit: Photograph by Getty Images/Oli Scarff