Tag Archives: Kodachrome

The last Kodachrome

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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End of Kodachrome and a way of seeing the world

English: Kodachrome 200 reversal film package,...

Gone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kodak has announed the end of production of Kodachrome film.  Those who still use film will know Kodachrome film for the quality of the colour and indeed I suspect many of us used Kodachrome as our reference film for documenting the world around us.

Film tracked the industrial revolution, documenting virtually all of the past 150-odd years of history.  The information revolution we are now in is less sentimental, images are chopped and cropped mercilessly in computers all over the world, and for many film is in the too-difficult box, while digital is almost trivial.

Is digital an art form?  Who knows, but film certainly produced enduring images over the years.

A worthy history lesson is to look at the photography books produced in 1920s-30s for sheer tour-de-force black and while images, and the discovery of colour itself producing excitement and experimentation — kids with new toys — look for books published by Kodak, in particular a short-lived series on applied photography in the early 1930s, with images that while dated still resonate.  Think of O Winston Links trains from the 1950s, and then look at product photographs of farm machinery taken at night.  Makes some advertising today look positively primitive.  Browse back copies of Vogue for the cutting edge of fashion photography, and then marvel at the Magnum’s photojournalism — still going strong.

End of an era, and perhaps an end of a way of seeing, too.

And on the way out, let us remember Paul Simon’s song Kodachrome.

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