Picturing Kodak’s transformation in the digital age

Eastman Kodak was once one of the nation’s leading companies, but since the rise of digital technology, the photographic film company has been forced to downsize and find alternative ways to make profits. A short documentary by The New York Times looks at how the company has changed.

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    For many years, Kodak Film was one of the nation's leading companies, with 145,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of $19 billion.

    Today, Kodak is a much smaller company. Digital cameras don't need film, and Kodak is focusing instead on exploiting thousands of patents it holds. The New York Times produced this snapshot of the physical and cultural transformation taking place at Kodak company headquarters in Rochester, New York.

  • MICHAEL ALT, Director, Eastman Business Park:

    You know, there are some mixed emotions. We took down 40 buildings and about six million square feet of space.

    In 34 years, I worked in a lot of these buildings. I have got to be honest, it was a little bit tough to see some of that going down.

  • JEFF CLARKE, C.E.O., Eastman Kodak Company:

    When you go to Eastman Business Park, it used to be called Kodak Park. You're standing in a place that once had tens of thousands of employees working there. Now it has fewer, more diversified, but still an exciting place.


    We still have over 6,500 people. The difference is, three-quarters of those people are non-Kodak workers today.

    DAVID STOKLOSA, Vice President of Corporate Business Development, LiDestri Foods, Inc.: All around us are other companies, not Kodak. What used to happen in this facility where we're now making sauce and salsa, Kodak used to make camera bodies.

    Initially, it was a little eerie, and now it's just normal.

    My last five years at Kodak, I used to manage the decline. I used to manage decline, sell buildings, cut costs. It was depressing. It's just a shadow of its former self.


    What it is today is very different. Obviously, Kodak is a pretty interesting company. And it was a brand that was very warm, very personal, because these were your memories they were capturing.

    Part of me says, we need to carry on that legacy, and the next generation of products we make, they will have Eastman technology in there.

    We have 7,000 patents. We make our own inks. We make our own toners. We also make the fastest commercial printing ink jet machines in the world. We're using film and putting silver halide and a grid on it.

  • MIKE SMITH, Kodak:

    We then print touch sensors. Putting glue on a piece of construction paper and sprinkling sparklies on top is very similar to what goes on here. The glue is our ink. The sparklies in this part of the process is the metal. It's a little bit more high-tech than that, but, fundamentally, that's what goes on.

    Ektacolor paper, Kodacolor film, Vision motion picture film, they're iconic products, but they lived their life cycle. This is now the next generation of great Kodak products.


    Part of me would love to have the business we had. While I enjoy the nostalgia, I'm beyond that now. I'm ready to move on.

    Kodak will be offering more jobs here. But I think the real job growth will likely come from other companies coming in utilizing the capability here.


    At one time, there were 30,000 people manufacturing film. We now have 300 people manufacturing film.


    There has to be a sense of renewal. Sometimes you have to prune the tree to get it to grow stronger.


    This is a real exciting change for us. Touch sensors, you see them everywhere, whether it's a phone, a tablet, just in the airport, wherever.


    I jumped ship and came over to the food and beverage industry, unlike anything I had done before. Food and beverages, it's — you know, it's the one thing that I like about it the most is people got to eat. It won't be replaced by digital technology. And that, I like.


    And you can find more on Kodak and the company's transformation online at nytimes.com/video.

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