Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kodachrome's Obituary

©Steve McCurry - Afghan Girl shot on Kodachrome
Kodachrome was pronounced dead today at 12 p.m. central time in Parsons, Kansas at the age of 75. It was introduced to the world on April 15, 1935. Its untimely passing was due to a new, rampant and destructive disease that has infected many areas of our lives called "digital laziness." Kodachrome was announced terminally ill by Kodak on June 22, 2009 when they quit manufacturing the film. It finally met its end today as Dwayne's Photos will process the last rolls of this remarkable film.

Kodachrome led a good life and revolutionized an industry and the way that the world saw and recorded color. It broke down the barriers of color migration and made the vision of full and vibrant color in motion pictures and later in the photographic still consumer market a reality.

Kodachrome rewarded generations of skilled users with a richness of color and a unique treatment of light. It stands as a photographic landmark of photography's golden age. A state park in Utah was named after this wonderful film, Kodachrome Basin. Paul Simon wrote a legendary sing entitled Kodachrome. National Geographic's most famous pictures were shot using this film.

“It’s more than a film, it’s a pop culture icon,” said Todd Gustavson, a curator from the George Eastman House, a photography museum in Rochester in the former residence of the Kodak founder. “If you were in the postwar baby boom, it was the color film, no doubt about it.”

The film was invented by two professional musicians: Leopold Godowsky, Jr. and Leopold Mannes. It truly could be considered to be heralded as a moment of heaven meets earth. This relationship was emphasized by playing off of the names of the inventors in a famous saying describing how remarkable the film was to the people of that day, that "Kodachrome was made by God and Man."

It is survived by some wonderful negative films and a few slide films and thankfully some wonderful black and white films. It is also survived by many processes much older than itself such as wet collodion and tintype which has made a surprising resurgence in part to the same disease that killed Kodachrome. 

It was proceeded in passing by Polaroid, some Fuji films, Kodak paper, Agfa Films and many others. 

You will be missed Kodachrome!

Lyrics to Paul Simons "Kodachrome"

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It's a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

If you took all the girls I knew
When I was single
And brought them all together for one night
I know they'd never match
My sweet imagination
And everything looks better* in black and white

You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

*Paul Simon sometimes switches this word between better and worse. I obviously elected to list better for obvious reasons.


Whitnée said...

So sad.

Rob Oresteen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Oresteen said...

Well, in spirit, I go along with all you have said, except;

Kodachrome did not die because of "Digital laziness". It dies in 1990 when Fuji introduced an E-6 emulsion called Velvia.

This 50 ASA film almost knocked out Kodachrome overnight, ironically due to it's ability to render the color green "better" according to pro landscape photographers of the time. I say "ironically", because in Simon's song, he laments about the "Greens of summer".

I have 100's of Kodachrome slides I need to scan that I shot years ago...when done, they will be a separate set altogether in my Flickr stream.

The good news is that Kodak's E-100 G and VS along with Fuji's Provia and Astia, are providing film shooters with arguably some of the best color transparencies ever available. And for you sunset freaks, nothing can really top Velvia 50 or 100 IMO.

Both Fuji's 160 and 400 Pro as well as Kodak's Ektar 100 and new Portra 400 are proving to any doubters why film out of the can has more to offer than the latest sensor Japan can come with.

It's really a good time for the digital high wears off the posers, more and more photographers will benefit (as well their clients)from film use. Yes, compared to digital it's a niche market, but so is, arguably owning a BMW to a Ford.

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