The title probably has you singing the words of the Paul Simon song, “Kodachrome”, but, for those of us of a certain age, we have probably said this, or at least thought this, when we looked at those vivid Kodachrome photos from our youth. Of course, Paul Simon was probably using the film name as a metaphor, but that is not exactly what I want to discuss. Well, … on second thought; maybe, in a way, the nostalgia is sort of what I want to talk about… the nostalgia of analog photography, and one particular brand of film that, you guessed it, gave “us those nice bright colors”.
KODACHROME ® FILM
As part of our stroll down memory lane, I included a few pictures of my grandmother’s camera because I am pretty sure it held a roll or two of Kodachrome in it’s day. I say this because the film was THE film of choice in the 1950-1980’s. Both amateur and professional photographers considered it their “go-to” film. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked.
WHAT MADE THE FILM SPECIAL
Kodachrome was introduced in 1935, and became the revered icon of film for 74 years. It was the first, commercially available, color film to use a subtractive, three-color process method and was widely used in its various formats for both cinematography, as well as still photography. The film provided a fine grain, moderate speed, rich, brilliant, realistic color, AND a superior archival quality. What’s not to love?
So, if the film was so beloved, why can’t you buy a roll to pop in your camera and document your memories today?
Kodachrome had the longest run of any color film brand until it was discontinued in 2009. The film was eclipsed by faster, cheaper, films by the mid-1980’s. Who can forget those one-hour photo processing promises of the 1980’s and 1990’s? Well, Kodachrome was not a one-hour processing kind of film; so, this started its demise.
Ultimately, digital photography rendered the film, and its processing, financially unrealistic. There are plenty of articles and blog posts that cover the particulars, so there is no need to go into depth here. The bottom line is that Kodak stopped production of the film in 2009. And, the last lab with the resources to develop the film (Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas) established a December 30, 2010 deadline for processing Kodachrome film. In case you think this was a “non-event”, there is even a movie about a photographer traveling across the country to get his film in the queue before the December deadline.
If you did not experience these images first hand, you may still be wondering why this film was so treasured by so many. Well, here are a few examples of “famous” images that were captured on this “famous” film.
FAMOUS PHOTOS CAPTURED ON THE FAMOUS FILM
I have included five examples of moments that were captured on Kodachrome film:
If you have followed me very long, you know how I admire Russell Lee’s work. However, did you know his Pie Town, New Mexico series was captured on Kodachrome, as well as black-and-white film? I had the honor of seeing these images in person and I loved every one of them just as much as his beautiful black-and-white images. ( HERE is an article about the images and HERE is my mention of the exhibit.)
Sir Edmund Hillary and members of the British Expedition, who were the first people on record to reach the zenith of Mount Everest, reportedly carried the film along on this momentous 1953 expedition. HERE is a bit about Hillary.
Abraham Zapruder was apparently filming with 8-mm Kodachrome on that fateful day in November 1963, when he captured the assassination of President Kennedy. The infamous film has become known as the “Zapruder film”.
Who can forget Steve McCurry’s iconic image of the beautiful 12-year-old Afghan girl (and those eyes) which ran on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985. In case you are curious, the last roll of Kodachrome film was shot by Steve McCurry.
Last, but not least, all of those family vacations, birthdays, graduations, weddings, … I think this is probably the main reason the film was so beloved by everyone. You probably have a hidden Kodachrome gem or two somewhere in your family.
Whether you did or did not have personal experience with Kodachrome, do you like those vivid colors, or do you prefer muted tones?
Did you ever use Kodachrome film? Do you have any images to share with us so we can have a look at those blazing, beautiful colors? Share them here, please!! Or, share them on Facebook or Instagram for Throwback Thursday (#TBT) and tag me so I can enjoy them.
I have started a Kodachrome Pinterest Board HERE . Please take a look around. It will make “… you think the world’s a sunny day…”.