Scaredy Cat Films

This article ran in the December 30th edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Story Link: Kodak to end infrared film production

Kodak to end Infrared Film Production

Matthew Daneman
Staff Writer

(December 30, 2007) — The human eye cannot see infrared radiation, but the camera lens can. And in infrared photos, grass, clouds and tree leaves can glow with the intensity of bright sunshine reflecting off snow, in stark contrast to the darker tree trunks, rocks and sky around them.

However, the industry-leading film that usually makes those shots happen, Eastman Kodak's HIE-135, is about to come to an end.

Kodak, citing declining sales of the product, plans to quit manufacturing and distributing the infrared film after this year.

One North Carolina photographer who uses the film in his fine art shooting is seeking a reprieve for HIE-135. James C. Williams has contacted professional photographers worldwide through e-mail and messages left on electronic bulletin boards, asking them to lobby Kodak to keep making the infrared film.

"I understand Kodak has its challenges with ... making their shareholders happy and maintaining a good business profile in a difficult environment," said Williams, who lives in Winston-Salem. But the company that popularized photography, he said, also has a responsibility to the art form it made possible.

"They got us liking this candy and now they want to take it away," Williams said. "They're responsible for an art form, and they need to understand they are affecting an artistic outlet."

Kodak declined to make someone available to respond to the lobbying effort. But in a statement, the company said: "We very much appreciate the correspondence we've received from some photographers who use our infrared film and would like to be able to purchase it in 2008 and beyond. However, the fact is the decline in use of infrared film has been so substantial over the years that it is no longer practical for Kodak to continue to manufacture this product, given the extremely low demand and volume, the age of the product formulations and the complexity of the processes involved."

Infrared film is used mainly by the scientific community for capturing objects using infrared light. A number of fine art photographers also use it for the striking black-and-white images it creates.

"You never know what you're going to get," said Peter Laytin, a photography instructor at Massachusetts' Fitchburg State College who has used infrared film since the 1970s. "You're recording beyond visible light, therefore there's a whole bunch of the unknown."

Some other companies also make infrared film, "but nothing of the quality the HIE had," Laytin said. "This was the best. And it will be sorely missed."

Kodak's infrared film usually has to be special-ordered from photography supply shops, with rolls costing $13 to $15 for 36 exposures. And it requires special handling because of its sensitivity to infrared light, with rolls needing to be loaded into and unloaded out of cameras in pitch darkness.

Williams, 46, said he has heard from at least 100 people who indicated they contacted Kodak about saving infrared film.

Kodak "seems very resolved in discontinuing the film," he said. "It's a pity. I'd like to know if they'd consider selling the formula to another manufacturer."

Link to James C Williams Photos.

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