Farewell to Kodak Film for Slides

A roll of Ektachrome color reversal film in 120 format, and a slide created from Ektachrome 35 millimeter format film. Photograph ©2012 by Brian Cohen.


Today is Easter Sunday, as well as the second day of Passover — and chances are that moments of enjoying the holidays with your family are being captured as digital images by a camera — or, perhaps by a different electronic device.
Photographers have been lamenting the recent announcement by Kodak that it will no longer manufacture color reversal film — as the color is positive, inverse of traditional negative film — for slides. This is due to the increase in the use of digital formats for recording images.
Digital photography is instant gratification personified. Think about it: with the technology available today, you simply take a picture, transfer it to your computer, retouch or correct it and crop it if necessary, and then print it or share it electronically via the Internet. There is no waiting one hour — or even several days — for processing time. You do not have to pay for bad photographs anymore — they can simply be deleted or archived.
I remember the days of photography before digital imaging. Photography was as much of a craft as it was a medium — especially for those photographers who are talented and have an eye for image and composition. I first heard about the technology of no longer needing film for photography back in the mid-1980s — and I remember my reaction being one of disbelief. After all, how can photography be possible without film?
Not only am I a professional photographer and have been for many years — I still own two complete sets of Hasselblad camera equipment — but I also used to develop my own film and photographs. Ektachrome was especially easy to develop because once it was developed, the process was done aside from cutting the developed film and applying a cardboard or snap-on plastic mount. There was no need to transfer the image to photographic paper via an enlarger, as needed to be done with negative film. I still have an enlarger, as well as the development tank, thermometer and chemicals to develop Ektachrome film and color negative film — although it is safe to say that the chemicals are long outdated. I do not have much of them left anyway. The chemicals always reminded me of a salad with Italian dressing with that strong odor similar to vinegar.
Anyway, developing one’s own film and photographs required time, patience and care. There was as much satisfaction in developing one’s own images as there was using the camera to capture them. Sure, anyone could take pictures — but there was a certain pride in knowing how to properly set your camera for the correct exposure and effect, as well as using tricks and techniques in the darkroom to develop those images onto film and paper. As I said, photography was a craft — a craft not easily undertaken or even understood by the average person.
There are photographers who believe that film is still superior to digital technology. I tend to agree, to a point — much as there are audio aficionados who believe that the sound quality of vinyl and ceramic audio recordings are superior to digital music technology, as well as artists who believe that good old fashioned media such as charcoal, paint and pencils are superior to the quality produced digitally using image manipulation software application programs. However, the ease of use and low cost of technology — combined with the instant gratification factor — tend to win out over traditional media, especially when the quality difference is negligible.
The fact that the discontinuation of the manufacturing of Ektachrome color reversal film may have some photographers wax nostalgic can be offset by at least one positive note: no longer will anyone be required to be a captive audience in dark, dusty rooms subject to long, boring slide show presentations of family gatherings at Easter or travel to tourist traps with family members wearing gaudy outfits…

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