There are many things that we creatures cherish. One of them is often old albums full of photographs printed from film. In fact I even have my first self-developed photogram, pinhole picture and my very first roll of developed film.

But we no longer take our single use cameras on holiday. Amidst the digital revolution we have changed to compact cameras or digital SLRs and placed the film camera in the loft with those photo albums. And in the same way that the online revolution is damaging the newspaper industry, the digital surge is ruining the film industry.

The proof is in today’s announcement by Kodak of the retirement of their Kodachrome film. Demand for it has dwindled and the company now generates “70% of its revenue from commercial and consumer digital business”. One of the last films will be used by Steve McCurry, who has taken some of the most iconic images using Kodak film, but even he admits that he has since moved on to other films and digital.

I’m not going to deny that the digital camera has opened up a whole new world of photography, I simply hope that this is not the start of the demise of the film camera. You can’t replace the beauty of watching your picture faintly emerge from a floating white sheet of paper. Processing a film to perfection is all part of the pride in photography. Watching an image shoot out of the bottom of a machine in three seconds does not amaze me. Some pictures need the personal touch. So this summer I’m blowing the dust of my Diana and Minolta and remembering why I fell in love with photography.


 There is a bigger problem, Becci. Historians, reporters and archivists have become accustomed to finding entire treasure troves of photographs and negatives depicting the past in graphic monochrome (and sometimes in colour). Attics, company store rooms and government archives are full of them. They have given us 'forgotten' images of Franco, Marilyn Monroe, JFK and Mick Jagger (to name but a random handful). The digital generation looks less likely to print, store and forget images for the future. It means that images of people who are insignificant  now, but may be famous or infamous or fascinating in thirty years time, may not be stored. Imagine not being able to find a good quality picture of Becci Hughes at university when she becomes the editor of the New Yorker...Software may not be the answer. We have a lamentable tendency to adopt new programmes and forget the old. I have 30,000 words of a novel I tried to write as a student stored on a format I can no longer open. In this instance the world has been saved from some appalling prose, but a similar fate might easily befall something worth preserving.    

There is always going to be technology or ideas written off as 'outdated' available somewhere. Might cost a bit more, but that isn't always a certainty.

I can't remember who said it earlier in the year (one of the lecturers, I believe), that there has been an increase in cassette tape sales. Personally, I can't remember the last time I was in the same room as a cassette. 

Another old format of music that is still around is vinyl. There are people that believe that the sound of a vinyl is superior to a CD. "It is just too clean". The arguement I suppose being is that it lacks character or authenticity.

Now we have mp3's and the lovely itunes. Personally, I will never stop buying CD's. I like to look at the music I have collected over the years.

With the emergence of the pocket-sized digital camera we are seeing a sudden obsession with photography. You only have to be on Facebook or Myspace (for whoever uses that), to see how many pictures people take. I am fairly sure there are some pictures that are taken and uploaded that were taken within moments of one another. People are getting lazy, there are not looking for the perfect photograph anymore, they just snap anything and everything.

I think it is for that reason that there will always be rolls of film to put in your camera. Purists will want to seperate themselves from the happy snappers of today and keep that sense of anticipation when they develop their own pictures. The only experience I ever had of this was a disaster, but I hear it is quite satisfying. 

You might have a digital camera for the same reason I have an mp3 player. For convenience. But my laptop will never replace my CD rack.





Is the cassette thing actually true? I know vinyl sales have increased. 

I still don't download my music - I like CDs and their artwork. Then there's always the fact that I don't trust iTunes and am far too lazy to back everything up...

As for Facebook, I don't think it's an obsession with photography it's an obsession with themselves. People enjoy boasting about their 14862465 pictures.

I remember it being on the news and thinking "oh right".

I suppose it is easier to record music straight onto a cassette for some people. Also, police stations have to use them as solicitors don't trust CD's as they are easily tampered with.

Maybe there is just more crime? So the police are stockpiling cassettes.


Yes indeed this is a challenge that archivists and historians everywhere are battling with. The Library of Congress has whole teams working on the problem. The paradox is that it will be easier to access material from long ago - because it is preserved on reliable (acid free) paper - than documents (like Tim's novel!) from the recent past which are inaccessible on outdated formats.

Not to mention the 'disappearance' of some things altogether. It was really interesting that when I was working in the archive on the BBC history, the files from long ago were bulging as every transaction and interaction had been carefully written down - so the historian had a relatively complete picture of what had gone on. It was fascinating to trace for example the multiple memos and disagreements on a particular topic- or even mundane things such as George Orwell dropping a note to T.S Eliot to ask him to appear on a programme. When I turned to equivalent files from more recent times they were tiny. So much had happened via email/phone leaving the poor historian with nothing....

And one further element is the unintended effect of Freedom of Information. These days policy makers will be much more careful about what they commit to the record, - once again depleting the material available to future historians.

“Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”