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Picture Book: Kodak, Instagram, and the Future of Photography

Photo by Wikipedia user camerafiend.

Earlier this month, Eastman Kodak — the film giant that once accounted for 90% of the film sold worldwide – filed for bankruptcy. Kodak was the big cheese in photography back when everyone still used film in their cameras, but they’ve been outpaced in the digital age; ironic because Kodak pioneered digital photography. (Pioneered the technology, but was unable to capitalize on their creation.)

The whole Kodak thing got me thinking of my first trip to Europe. I was sixteen, and I’d raised money for my travels by going door-to-door in my town, asking for donations and grovelling in front of the school board. Between my stumping (and my saintly parents somehow coming up with the balance) I was soon off to another continent.

The trip lasted 10 days, and I saw Spain, France, and England (The Netherlands, too, if you count the Amsterdam airport where I saw an awesome Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings in a gift shop). It was a great trip: I ate a real hamburger (emphasis on “ham” — the Spanish didn’t really get it), nearly died on the Metro in Paris (seriously–my death flashed before my eyes), and crushed hard on a fellow traveler while checking out great record stores in London.

I got to thinking about this trip because I used my parent’s clunky Kodak film camera to chronicle my trip. I took pictures of Francisco Franco’s palace, The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Big Ben, and lots of other great stuff. I probably took about six rolls of film during the trip, and I’ve got all of those pictures in a photo album at home.

Remembering the trip, I realized that I was focusing most on the camera. I recall it being expensive, though I only knew that it was expensive because my Dad told me it was expensive. He told me it was expensive when he told me not to break or lose it on my trip. (I got the message and brought the camera back safe.) But what I was remembering about the camera was not how much it cost, or the nice pictures that it took; what I was remembering was that it seemed HUGE. Compared to the compact digital cameras you buy today it was like carrying a toaster around. It was huge, but it wasn’t cool-looking like the famous Kodak Instamatic (above). It was big and black and clunky in a 90s kind of way.

Digital Cameras were out at that time, but not everyone owned one; and you can forget about having a camera on your cell phone. (Or even having a cellphone if you were me.) So, I traipsed around Europe with a camera in my bag, sneaking photos and admiring my surroundings while desperately reminding myself NOT to hang the camera around my neck and look too much like a tourist.

When I returned home, the film was developed. Suddenly, I didn’t mind that I had to lug that camera all around because I had some great photos to remember my trip. The best picture wasn’t even taken by me; it was a picture of the Eiffel Tower taken from our bus by the girl I had a crush on. The lighting was great, the tower looked amazing, but the image was cut off because it was the last image on the roll. C’est la vie.

In that spirit, it’s a great time to look at the future of photography. Kodak has been great (and hopefully they’ll recover!) but, in this age of digital film and 1,000,000 mega pixel smartphone cameras, it would be silly not to embrace the great photography apps available for phones and tablets.

After all, Kodak was famous because they made everyone a photographer. A smartphone offers you the same chance today! It’s become so easy to create great images with a cell phone. The funny thing is that most of the photos you take with your phone are designed to look like analog photographs you’d take with an old Kodak or Polaroid camera!

Check out these great apps and let us know what you think (Did I forget your favorite photo app? Let me know in the comments!) :

InstagramFast beautiful photo sharing for your iPhone – Snap a photo with your iPhone, choose a filter to transform the look and feel, send to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr – it’s all as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented. And it’s FREE!

FX Camera – A great FREE app. FxCamera enables you to take a picture with various effects: ToyCam, Polandroid, Fisheye, SymmetriCam, Warhol, and normal mode.


HipstamaticDigital photography never looked so analog – This is not a FREE app, but it’s a really good one. Available from the App Store.

Stachematic – A hilarious FREE app for iPhone and iPad. Struggle growing a ‘stache? Fake it! Add majestic Handlebars, Chaplins, Sellecks, and ‘staches of every style to photos of friends, family, and coworkers!


PopBooth – PopBooth is a FREE photo booth app that turns 4 photos into a photo strip: post to Facebook, send by email, or send real photo strips in the mail. For iPhone and iPad.


and if you’re curious about Kodak, check out this great slideshow: The History of Kodak.

- Corey, Digital Learning Librarian

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