Can Film Hang On Much Longer?

I remember the year 2000 as if it was yesterday. The dawning of the new era in digital photography, when people talked about how film would one day disappear. Photographers were engaged in all sorts of arguments about whether or not film and darkroom papers would eventually go the way of the dodo bird, or if there would always be a need for film. Flash forward just a decade and all of a sudden that hypothetical future has arrived. None of the commercial photographers I know uses film for anything more than a small fraction of their work—and only then for some specific, special reason. What was once the dominant tool in the industry—in fact, the one necessity that every photographer needed—is now quite literally an afterthought. This recent AP story by Ben Dobbin puts into perspective just how dramatic our shift from film to digital has been. Ten years ago Kodak sold almost a billion rolls of film annually. This year, however, they’ll sell only 20 million. That’s a 98% hit to a once vital company with a near corner on the market. It’s sad to see film decline this far, even sadder to think about an eventual disappearance altogether. It’s hard for me to imagine we won’t be able to ever buy film, though. I sure hope Kodak and other manufacturers keep filling the demand in one way or another—no matter how small that demand might be.

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