[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
Today, Dwayne’s Photo, a family-owned and operated film-processing business that has operated in the small town of Parsons, Kansas, for over 50 years, will stop handling Kodachrome film. After they close shop today for the holiday, there will be no other place on earth still handling what was for many years the absolute standard when it came to color film. According to the NYT article:
Last year, Kodak stopped producing the chemicals needed to develop the film, providing the business with enough to continue processing through the end of 2010. And last week, right on schedule, the lab opened up the last canister of blue dye….
The status of lone survivor is a point of pride for Dwayne Steinle, who remembers being warned more than once by a Kodak representative after he opened the business more than a half-century ago that the area was too sparsely populated for the studio to succeed. It has survived in part because Mr. Steinle and his son Grant focused on lower-volume specialties–like black-and-white and print-to-print developing, and, in the early ’90s, the processing of Kodachrome.
Still, the toll of the widespread switch to digital photography has been painful for Dwayne’s, much as it has for Kodak. In the last decade, the number of employees has been cut to about 60 from 200 and digital sales now account for nearly half of revenue. Most of the staff and even the owners acknowledge that they primarily use digital cameras. “That’s what we see as the future of the business,” said Grant Steinle, who runs the business now.
Time marches on, and technology changes. Sometimes for better, often for worse, usually for a little bit of both. My wife, who learned photography while working in a newsroom back when you did your developing in a darkroom rather than on a computer, may shed a small tear (though only a small one, to be frank). Oh well. At least the era left us with something to remember it by, right?