Working for a foreign company and never meeting or knowing who our subscribers are made me think I was so disconnected with my work. The things I write in our newsletters are as foreign to me as our bosses. I’ve written countless of bankruptcy-related stories, pored through thousands of court documents, followed numerous billion-dollar and mega-billion dollar bankruptcy cases, but none gave me such sadness as when Kodak, after more than a hundred years of operation, delivered its Chapter 11 petition. The company – the pioneer in the film and photography technology development – got left behind in the digital world.
I am an old soul and find myself drawn towards the vintage, the analog cameras, the black and white photos. Last week, a bankruptcy judge in the United States confirmed Kodak’s reorganization plan and allowed the company to, not totally disintegrate, but operate as a company that we, ordinary consumers, probably would never recognize. That “Kodak” moment may never happen. Because although the company will continue to operate under the same name, it won’t provide the same products and services we have been accustomed to in the past century. Kodak survived, but now will mostly serve corporate clients, and not ordinary customers like me.
The expression “pa-Kodak” may never happen again, unless we pay a premium for professional-quality films for ordinary “capture that moment” events in our daily lives. The company sold its camera, film sales and consumer photo developing businesses. I write this with great sadness because I am a big fan of the cheaper Kodak films and its printing services, but, I am sure there are many who are sadder than me – more than 40,000 Kodak employees were laid off since 2003 and many businesses were spun off just to pay retiree pension and worker benefits.
Bankruptcy, like life, is unpredictable. The expression “too big to fail” no longer holds true (e.g. Lehman Brothers, General Motors). The length of time a company has been operating, and the fact that a company has become a household name, is not a testament to how solid and strong a company is in terms of liquidity. While a bankruptcy case focus on the legal aspect of a company’s operations and financing, a bankruptcy case may also affect even the most ordinary of individuals, even those who are as foreign to the case as to the people she is working for. That “Kodak moment” may never happen again, but then life, like bankruptcy, also gives us another chance — to make more moments, albeit in another format.
Photos taken at Boljoon, Cebu
Photos taken by Kodak B&W film + Asahi camera