Ektachrome: The End Is Near

Seriously depressing news from Kodak today.

I’ve been on this kick about the importance of physical artifacts, and that has carried over into my photography. notably in that I am shooting much more personal work on film than on digital, and making more prints no matter how I shoot. Digital photography, as a medium, is so easy, so effortless…there’s no changing film every 12 or 36 shots, no taking the film to the lab, no time in the darkroom, no smell lingering on your hands after you work hard on making that perfect print. The files come and go, a card might need to be replaced every couple hours if you are really shooting a lot…. I think it is easy to forget the fragility of the digital files we create. Photography is still difficult no matter the recording medium. But the decline of film has me worried about the tangibility and permanence of our photographic body of work.

So it is very disappointing to hear that Kodak is discontinuing production of my favorite film, Ektachrome E100G, as well as the other Ektachrome films. It is hard to communicate to those who have never shot film how one can fall in love with a particular medium, and find that it amplifies and improves one’s photographic vision. This isn’t a Lightroom preset or a Photoshop action or an Instagram filter that one can click on and then click away from; learning a film, and being in artistic symbiosis with its peculiarities, is a commitment. When you shoot Ektachrome, you shots look like Ektachrome, and you start to see the world as Ektachrome sees it (because a camera, says Dorothea Lange, is a tool for learning how to see without a camera).

And those slides! My god, those slides!

Photography will continue; excellent photography will continue; excellent photography on color transparency film will continue. Perhaps the loss first of Kodachrome (which I never had the pleasure of shooting) and now Ektachrome is sort of like the decline of script handwriting (you’re reading a guy who prefers writing with a fountain pen). For those who do it, it is important, not just aesthetically, but as a part of what writing or photography is.

I think I’ll have to shoot a bunch more of this film before the end of the year, when current inventory is expected to run out. I’ll have to come up with a suitable project to frame it around, and go from there.

After that, I guess it’s on to Fujifilm.

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