Dear Kodak

[Readers, if you agree with the below sentiments, please add your name to this letter here]

Scrolling through Kodak’s Instagram page something jumps out – nearly all the images featured are by men. The selected photos are undoubtedly brilliant shots, many by amateur film enthusiasts, but you’ll have to search a while before finding a female photographer (about 30 posts back, and then after that, more men). Kodak’s Instagram page currently does little to amplify the work of women and gender minority groups, and it also clearly lacks in diversity of race and ethnicity.

Considered by many film shooters as the mother ship, Kodak’s sway over the analogue community is significant and with a following of around 850k from across the world, their reach is wide. When an influential company like Kodak only promotes work by men, it perpetuates the (false) idea that ‘serious photography’ is a male pursuit.

The photography industry is famously imbalanced; the majority of professional photographers are white men. According to 1854 Media, publisher of the British Journal of Photography, ‘globally, 70-80% of photography students are women – yet they account for only 13-15% of professional photographers’. Data from the US Census Bureau in 2019 shows that 73% of Photographers are ‘White (Non-Hispanic)’, compared 62% of the population, while 8% of photographers are Black and 5% are Asian, compared to 12% and 6% of the population respectively. Arguably these disparities have a cascading effect across all types and levels of photography – from hobbyist to professional. It is irresponsible of Kodak to prop up this status quo.

So Kodak, for some inspiration, I have compiled a list of photographers below who I know for a fact use your film to create their photos, and just so happen to not be male. This is just a handful of the talent out there. People across the world use and love Kodak film, providing your social media platforms with the means to share a range of perspectives. Please diversify the photographers you promote on your page. Representation matters.

* this letter was updated 11/08/21

Statistics from Data USA, Women Photograph, 1854 and Hundred Heroines:

The Social Media Effect

Have you ever fallen victim to the ‘Social Media Effect’? You know, when you visit  somewhere after seeing a beautiful photo on Instagram but when you get there it doesn’t meet your expectations. You may travel to the Blue Lagoons in Iceland hoping to swim in a tranquil indigo pool, but in reality it is so crowded that the hygiene is questionable. A dramatic photo of the Great Wall of China is essentially a giant queue. In reality, spectacular flowers fields are full of people crushing the flowers and insects in order to get the ‘perfect’ shot. 

These places are often unusual, beautiful and/or historically significant, it is no wonder that people want to visit, and have done so for many years, well before the existence of social media. However, most of these places have undeniably witnessed an increase in visitors due to the influence of Instagram on travel and leisure, combined with the global rise in the middle class. This can result in these ‘IG worthy’ places becoming swamped with people. Santorini has to limit the number of travellers to the island each day and some places have had to close com. Visitors arrive with certain expectations and it is disappointing when they turn up to see the overcrowded reality. 

Is it damaging to the travel industry to constantly put out unobtainable travel ‘inspiration’? It is artistic licence to photoshop images, or deceptive? Instagram is not solely to blame for over-tourism but it may be at fault for creating unattainable expectations. The wave of ‘Instagram vs Reality’ videos are testament to this. 

I have fallen victim to the social effect myself. Unwittingly I visited a lavender field a year ago, not fully aware of its popularity with Instagrammers. It did not stop me from taking a photos of course – I even got the classic ‘candid’ walking through the fields shot (oh the embarrassment). In all honesty, I actually had a lovely time. Visiting when it was quieter, there were few people around, the sun was shining and I bought some dried lavender that still sits in a vase in my hallway. But a positive experience is not always the case, especially when Instagram sets the bar so high.

I have also visited places knowing full well that they are going to be photographer/ influencer hotspots. Recently in the peak of cherry blossom season, I went to see Greenwich Park’s blossom avenue. The first time I arrived at 6:45am to find huge (and quite frankly unfriendly) group of photographers. I left immediately, cursing how I hated humans and resolving to never return; then came back the next day of course. But this time I arrived before 6am and, result, I was the only one there. When other photographers started to show up, everyone was much more considerate. I guess I was just unlucky with the crowd encountered the previous day.

As a person who is a sucker for a photo with a max of 0-1 people, I often turn up insanely early to capture a quiet scene. I sometimes wonder if this is wrong of me – perhaps I should be more open to showing the ‘buzz’ of a place. But on the other hand, I get more pleasure being somewhere that is quieter, and at the end of the day it is a hobby, if I’m not enjoying it then what is the point. I tell myself, as long as you are honest about how the photo was taken, it is okay. And yet, what are the consequences of taking these photos? It may seem fairly innocent to tread carefully into woodland to take photos of bluebells, but what happens if thousands of people do the same thing? 

As a specific example, flower fields have become so popular in recent years and, with Instagram’s encouragement to do whatever it takes to get the perfect pic, it can have ecological impact. Natural fields like the poppy fields in California have seen a lot of damage that diminish the potential for future blooms. The impact of farmed flower fields seems less clear-cut. On one hand, these fields exist anyway to supply the florist and perfume industries, so what is the harm of opening them up to visitors to enjoy? These places are even utilising the IG appeal to up their business by setting up picture ready ‘sets’. On the other hand, the reality of these sites is that the experience can feel manufactured. 

It is inevitable that we may come across these situations from time to time, and when visiting popular places, it something you have to accept. Avoiding overtouristed destinations, researching places in advance and thinking outside the box a little (or the IG grid) may go some way to finding more authentic places to photograph.