Is this what it was like to have lived in the industrial revolution? As a child studying the industrial revolution in school, I never imagined one day I would be witnessing the modern day equivalent. There have been hints and talk of the digital revolution, but until recently I haven’t had any first-hand experience similar to the major life changing upheavals experienced as workers migrated from farms to factories.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview author and photographer Robert Burley at the opening of his exhibit The Disappearance of Darkness, at National Gallery of Canada. Robert documented with his film camera the closing and implosion of Kodak, Ilford, Polaroid and Agfa film factories around the world. It was ironic as Robert was photographing the implosion of a Kodak plant, he was the only one there using a film camera. Everyone else was using either a digital or a phone camera. Many of those in attendance were former employees of the factory which was being torn down.
Colour film as we know it will most likely be gone in about a year, maybe two. According to Robert, the movie industry will make the final switch from film to digital by 2015. When the movies no longer use film, it will be uneconomical to produce.
The astonishing aspect of the end of film as we know it, is the speed that it was replaced by digital cameras. It took the automobile 50 years to replace the horse and buggy. It took less than 10 years for digital cameras to replace film cameras.
I don’t doubt camera manufacturers very happy when consumers made the switch from film cameras to digital, because it gave them an opportunity to make and sell more cameras.
I wonder if camera manufacturers are as excited today as they were when the world practically switched overnight from film to digital, because it seems as though consumers are in the mood to switch again. Facebook is considered to be the world’s largest photo album. Some estimates suggest there are 208,300 images uploaded to Facebook every minute. That’s almost six billion (yes, with a B), images uploaded every month. How many of those images were taken with a traditional camera? Probably not many. The new face of photography is the phone.
Traditional compact camera sales, that trusty point-and-shoot camera, have been rapidly declining for a few years now. Last month it was revealed the the king of cameras, the DSLR, sales are now starting to drop. So far this year, Nikon’s share prices have fallen 33% and Canon prices have dropped 7%. Just as the introduction of digital cameras has disrupted the film industry, mobile phones are disrupting the camera industry.
I found it very ironic the very first item in Robert Burley’s exhibit in The National Gallery is an iPhone 1, streaming pictures from Facebook.