Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome Away...

February 11, 2011

As I return to blogging after my usual 2 1/2 month workathon called the holiday season, I couldn’t let the passing of Kodachrome go unnoticed on my shift. Was I one who was crying in the streets for it’s continuation? No. Did I think that my work would never be the same because of it’s passing? No. Did I use thousands of rolls of it in my career to date? Absolutely! Kodachrome was King! But, as happens to all kings, things change. Whether fast or slow, things always change; the king grows old and steps down, dies, or just passes the crown.

Here’s one of the last images I shot on Kodachrome, before going digital. It’s from a shooting trip I made to the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. I like it so much, it hangs on the wall in our bedroom, and is the first thing I see every morning when I wake up.

In this case a little bit of all of the above. Kodachrome had a helluva run though, almost 75 years. In this day and time of 18 month product renewals in the photo world, 75 years is almost unbelievable! But, during most of that time there was simply nothing better if you wanted awesome color, and great stability to go with it. Kodachrome used a process, known as K-14, that was only available through a professional lab, many of which were owned by Kodak. If you used E-6 process films, you could process your own, but not Kodachrome. Now, to Kodak’s credit, they had a pretty good turnaround time of 3 days, if you went through a shop that had Kodak daily pickup and delivery service. And, here in Charleston, through Merrill Photo, the film went to Findlay, Ohio.

What a joy to go to Merrill’s and pickup your yellow boxes filled with all your newest creations! Unless of course, you had 10 or 20 rolls that you had to edit, hunched over a light table, with your eyeball glued to a magnifying loupe for hour after hour! Do I miss that? No, I really like editing on a large 37” monitor, and being able to edit the shoot minutes after it’s completion, or as it’s going on, opposed to the old light table method. But, Kodachrome did hold a very special place in the world of photography, and I’m glad that I had a chance to take part in that.

I also thought that the efforts of National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry, to use the last roll produced, in an around the world photo shoot, was a pretty good sendoff for the King. And, the last roll was processed in family run Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, which is also fitting, given Kodachrome’s “everyman” history. Check out this story from The New York Times for a little more perspective. And, here’s the lyrics to Paul Simon’s iconic song. Till we meet again... SP.

P.S. When my 11 year old daughter heard me talking about the passing of Kodachrome, she asked, “What’s Kodachrome?” “It was a film,” I told her. “Who’s in it?”, she asked. Of course... she’s never used film, she’s only watched them. “Never mind.” I said. Yes, thing do change, and how.

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