Bill Manning has a one-on-one with the author of the book “Making Kodak Film” Bob Shanebrook.
Excerpt from Bob Shanebrook’s Bio:
Bob Shanebrook graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology and worked at Eastman Kodak Company for 35 years before retiring in 2003. At Kodak he worked as an industrial photographer, researcher, product development engineer, manufacturing manager, company spokesman for Professional Films, and for more than twenty years was a Worldwide Product-Line Manager for Kodak Professional Films
I’ve had many interviews with many amazing guests. However, I was not prepared to speak to a person so involved with Kodak’s history. Bob Shanebook spent 35 years at Eastman Kodak and the history he’s been apart of is astounding. From working on the Apollo mission projects designing the cameras that astronauts used to take Earthrise, (Shot on EKTACHROME) to working along side the man who created the first digital camera (Steve Sasson), to overseeing the production of many of the Kodak emulsions millions of photographers have come to love, Bob’s contribution to photography is impactful.
,On our interview we discuss many of the questions revolving making Kodak film. We learn that film technology has not changed much since George Eastman first made it on a paper backing in the late 1800’s.
We dive into discussing Kodachrome’s history and the viability of its return. We learn Kodachrome demise started far beyond the decline against digital and its struggles to survive in the 1980’s. The E-6 process simplified color transparency film process leading to the brand film photographers comes to love so dearly: EKTACHROME. We learn the several iterations (E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4) before it came to E-6.
Lastly, we discuss Bob’s book, ‘Making Kodak Film.’ This book is a labor of love. Bob took the time to find original engineers to breakdown each step of the film manufacturing process. During the interview process, Bob found it fascinating that Eastman Kodak kept departments compartmentalized. Engineers’ scope of knowledge rarely exceeded the are of their expertise; Something Kodak intended to do. Making the book was no easy feat. Eastman Kodak’s film manufacturing process was very secret and were not open to the idea of the publication of this book.
However, over time Kodak allowed Bob to write this book. The original intent was to document the steps in making the film, a book originally intended for his own enjoyment. However, as a result of the film resurgence, people have purchased this book to relearn a process that was nearly lost. The information Bob provides in this book is invaluable.
I learned a lot from Bob. I wish I had more time to interview him. My biggest takeaway from this interview: No matter how complex it seems, in its purist form, making film is mixing water and gelatin then adding silver halide and pouring it on to a support like paper or plastic. However, it is the purity of the contents and the technological processes that makes Kodak film so unique. Who would have thought the process first ‘developed’ in the 1880’s by George Eastman would still be the same today in 2019.
*All images used by permission from Robert Shanebrook