Nov 7, 2005

For whom the bell tolls

Source: The Age
Written By Terry Lane

Digital technology continues to cut a swathe through the businesses built on traditional chemical-based photography.

First Kodak was forced to sack thousands of workers at its plants around the world as demand for film and chemical processing dropped. Photo processing shops around Australia started to close as amateur photographers printed their own photos or used the internet or CD and DVD as their preferred display media.

Now the photographic firm of Agfa has announced it is bankrupt. The announcement in May that the company AgfaPhoto had filed for bankruptcy protection sent a chill through the company’s world operations. It will probably stop operating by the end of the year.

Australian photo processors with Agfa processors installed in their stores are looking for alternative suppliers. Woolworths has Agfa processing kiosks in 115 of its Big-W stores.

Afga made a half-hearted attempt at the transition from chemicals to digital but its cameras were uninspiring and never sold in sufficient numbers to save the company. Then Afga moved the focus of its business to the supply of processing machines, paper and chemicals but that also failed to revive its ailing fortunes.

Agfa has its origins in Germany in 1867 marketing its first colour film in 1936. Until Fuji became a market force, Agfa was the alternative to the dominant player, Kodak. Unlike Ilford, which has reacted to the change in photographic technology by using its paper-making expertise to move into the production of superior inkjet papers, Agfa appears to have misjudged the size and permanence of the digital tidal wave.

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