Photos

Faces of a Shrinking Company Town

A new photography book explores Rochester in the 12 months following Kodak's bankruptcy filing. 

Image
Radius Books/Alex Webb

In 2009, Kodak stopped manufacturing its beloved Kodachrome film. Three years later, it declared bankruptcy. 

The company's history is as intertwined with the world of photography as much as its home city of Rochester, New York. Three months after Kodak went bankrupt in January 2012, photographers Alex Webb and his wife, Rebecca Norris Webb, spent a full year documenting the city defined by its faded corporate giant.

The result is a book called Memory City (Radius Books, $60), in which Alex and Rebecca switch between digital and film photography to showcase the Western New York city of 210,000.

The duo provide a photographic narrative that suggests the decline and uncertainty of bankrupt Kodak, around since 1888, mirrors that of Rochester, the nation's third-poorest city.

Alex uses his final rolls of Kodachrome film in Memory City  not only for visual, but symbolic reasons. In the book he shares how he used almost exclusively Kodachrome film for 30 years while Rebecca ponders just how much longer she'll use film at all. 

Known for giving photographers rich, long-lasting colors, Kodachrome can only be processed in black and white today (the color processing chemicals no longer exist), and the result often leads to a distressed appearance. 

As somber as their photographs may appear, both Webbs manage to show that life in Rochester goes on, even as the remains of a more prosperous past linger in the background.

"Jazz Festival" (Alex Webb)
"Exchange Blvd" (Alex Webb)
"Downtown" (Alex Webb)
"Exchange Blvd" (Alex Webb)
"7th Ward" (R N Webb)
"RIT Housing" (R N Webb)
"Kodavista" (Alex Webb)
"14621 Neighborhood" (Alex Webb)
"Lawn Street" (Alex Webb)
"Northwest Quadrant" (Alex Webb)
"Kodak Tower" (Alex Webb)

 

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