Kodak City is the result of Catherine’s investigation into Kodak which was established in 1888 by George Eastman, who revolutionized photography and founded the photographic industry. However, by 2012, plagued by legal battles and the impact of the digital revolution, Kodak was bankrupt.
Her investigation reveals what remains of Kodak as a business and the ways in which the decline of the company impacted the city of Rochester where the headquarters were established in 1888. It is a testimony both engaged and objective, covering a part of America’s industrial heritage that faces the inevitable disappearance. It is also a way of paying homage to the father of modern photography, George Eastman (1854 -1932) in his hometown, which he transformed into the cradle of the world’s collective memory for the entire 20th century.
The Kodak City series will be presented by Head On Photo Festival 2016 at Customs House, Circular Quay, Sydney. Catherine’s visit is made possible with the generous support of the Consulate General of Switzerland in Sydney.
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Every once in a while I find a photographer or a body of work that resonates with me in a very specific way. In the case of Catherine Leutenegger’s “Kodak City” I found a body of work that haunted from the moment I saw the first image. As many of you know, I once worked for Eastman Kodak. During my tenure at Kodak the company was in the midst of violent upheaval. I survived many layoffs, mergers and failings of people, products and legacy. It was truly an empire in decline. But my overwhelming sense during that period was one of accomplishment, history and pride. When people ask me about Kodak I have nothing but good things to say, and I can only imagine where photography would be without the “Great Yellow Father.”
Catherine Leutenegger is a Swiss photographer who is not your average image maker. She asks questions. She studies the facts and histories and then acts in a comprehensive way through images that are both informative and mesmerizing. Again I’ll use the word “haunting.” Leutenegger documented the remains of Kodak’s home, Rochester, New York. The city is a mere shadow of it’s former self, but the photographer manages to make beautiful images of a place and people who are fighting for survival. Produced over a seven-year span, “Kodak City” is a critical artifact in the preservation of what once was in world photographic history. It’s difficult to create “urban landscapes” that are engaging, but she does by shooting very specific scenes in very specific light. In some cases the image is about absence while others are about the dated details of what remains. I love photographers who do their research, and was impressed by her knowledge of people and place. Thanks Catherine.

Interview by Daniel Milnor, Sydney 2016


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