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Top photographer recalls Kodak's fading moment

George Eastman House via Reuters

George Eastman, left, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, is shown with fellow inventor Thomas Edison. The 130-year-old photographic film pioneer, which had tried to restructure to become a seller of consumer products like cameras, has filed for bankruptcy.

The news that Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday saddened many, including (and maybe especially) the photographers who relied on the company's products for more than a century to record images both mundane and historic.

Almost anyone who shot a photo prior to the advent of digital photography has used Kodak film.

Gary Cameron / Reuters

Eastman Kodak black and white film, negatives, film development reels and black and white photographic prints.

Professional photographers relied on the brand from the early 1900s until the 1980s, when the company that invented the hand-held camera and rollup film began to lose market share to foreign producers. Cameras, lenses, film, photographic paper and other artifacts -- cherished by photographers and collectors -- remain as reminders of the company's contribution to the art of taking pictures.

Mick Cochran

An old Kodak film canister, photographed on Jan. 19.

Mick Cochran, former director of photography for USA Today, spoke with msnbc.com about stumbling across his own Kodak keepsakes.

Rummaging through a canvas bag inside his Rhode Island home, Cochran found an old film canister from the 1950s.

“Oh wow," he said admiring the well-worn item. "Look at that, you see the texture? The Kodak just pops. It’s the coolest thing.”

Photographers admittedly get a bit wistful when looking back at shooting and processing film, even though they enjoy the ease of digital photography, which Kodak invented but ironically never exploited.

"Anytime you could find someone to process your film, you would do it. Nobody wanted to be in the darkroom with all those chemicals. It was a rite of passage, it was messy," Cochran said.

"It was such an arduous thing we did. Digital came around and it was so much better and faster," he said.

Gary Cameron / Reuters

A collection of Eastman Kodak products.

Gary Cameron / Reuters

An Eastman Kodak Carousel slide projector, with 35mm color slide and film cannisters.

Cochran said that even though many people criticize Kodak for failing to keep up with the explosion in digital photography, he recalled that the Rochester, N.Y.-based company sent a team to Florida to interview photographers for what was the first digital photography workshop.

“It was fascinating,” he said, adding it was clear Kodak was trying to figure out what it was going to do with the new technology and how it was going to grow the business. 

"That big yellow K has always been a good thing, a quality product. You can’t deny their support of the photo business," Cochran said.