naphumber November 21, 2010

An earlier post (End of Kodachrome and a way of seeing the world) I lamented the loss of Kodachrome.

Steve McCurry, the photojournalist, has shot the final, last, roll of Kodachrome.  The story is being told in many places, but here is the first notice from the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle, in which state this last roll was developed.

Many people used Kodachrome as their film of choice and I have boxes of them, all memories, all virtually instantly viewable, without needing too much technology. But such is the end of all things. These last pictures of a memorable film are more interesting for being the last, and the burden of history must sit rather heavily on each image.

The last roll of Kodachrome.

The capturing of images has changed our perception of the world in a way that printing also did. Printing words led to widespread literacy. Photography enabled people to capture the visual literacy of the world; in some respects it led to public awareness of both the good and evil of the world; these images of history, in the form of film, sit there defying us to alter them (though a little airbrush here and there was used to alter history, as images are powerful — what did McLuhan say — it is a hot medium). No denying that.

We are living through a lot of lasts, as the information and digital age takes flight.  And who knows where the book is headed….

While we cannot predict where all this will take us, the real world of photographs, books, records, is being supplanted by digital counterparts, whose only existence depends on the reliability of the device to decode the digital information content. We know the digital bit is rapidly changing, and that as digital storage technologies fail (they do that), the information on them will be lost. While people do make backups, they are not analogue (i.e. real pictures, words on real paper), and all that depends on the continuing existence of our high-tech energy hungry post-industrial society.

Think of it this way: you’re stranded on a desert island with a laptop, iPad, whatever, which contains all your music, all your books, all your family photos and the battery is dead. What do you do?

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