I may go all misty writing this, because today we're witnessing the demise of something truly nostalgic and iconic. Kodak has announced it's retiring Kodachrome film.
The digital age is here, and I for one have been on board since day one, loving the immediate gratification and feedback on how my pictures look. As a student in my photojournalism classes I remember bracketing my f-stops to make sure I had at least one picture with the correct exposure (well, most of the time I had one) and keeping my fingers crossed while my film was in the soup -- each time that shutter clicks, my dad used to say, costs ya twenty five cents.
But nowadays all you have to do is look and see, and go, humph, that one's good, but why don't I shoot about 30 more just to be certain. Digital photography can sure make you a better photographer, just by trial and error, even in full manual mode.
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I never used Kodachrome film, but my dad was a huge fan of it in the '60s, and took a million slides of us as little kids way back in the day, when color was new. With Kodachrome, you didn't get negatives; you got "postitives," and they were slides. The technology was one-of-a-kind, and it's been the gold standard since 1935.
Even now, the prints I've made of my childhood pictures look so new, I can tell people I'm only 30. (Well, the cars and hairstyles may give me away, but you get the point.)
My dad took some great shots, like this one, on Kodachrome -- This picture is more than 40 years old. And I think I even tweaked some of these to look a little more old timey and faded, like this group shot below (I'm the little one in the middle) after I had a guy at Pay Less Photo turn a few of 'em into prints about 10 years ago, then scanned them to put them on the computer. For all the processing and reprocessing, they sure still look pretty good.
Here's the thing about Kodachrome film. Not only has it been immortalized in song (thanks, Paul Simon) but it has immortalized so many scenes over the years, and holds its quality. It has stood the test of time. The Zapruder film, of JFK's assassination, was on Kodachrome. Remember that National Geographic picture of the Afghan refugee girl with the startling green eyes? Kodachrome. That picture was taken by Steve McCurry, who said in a story on the Huffington Post that he "will shoot one of the last rolls of Kodachrome film and donate the images to the George Eastman House museum, which honors the company's founder, in Rochester:
For McCurry, who after 25 years with Kodachrome moved on to digital photography and other films in the last few years, the project will close out an era.
"I want to take (the last roll) with me and somehow make every frame count ... just as a way to honor the memory and always be able to look back with fond memories at how it capped and ended my shooting Kodachrome," McCurry said."
Kodak has put up a gallery of famous shots on Kodachrome, you can see it here. Seeing is believing, but in case it's not enough, let me explain what's so special about Kodachrome film. Wikipedia says "...When stored in darkness, Kodachrome's long-term stability under ordinary conditions is superior to other types of color film; images on Kodachrome slides over fifty years old retain accurate color and density. It has been calculated that the least stable color, yellow, would suffer a 20% loss of dye in 185 years."
But today'sLA Times story says:
"Revenue from Kodachrome represents "a fraction of one percent" of Kodak's total sales of still-picture films," and
"Photofinishing labs that process Kodachrome film have dwindled to one worldwide, Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas, Kodak said. The lab will offer processing for the film through 2010, and Kodak estimates Kodachrome film supplies will last until "early fall" of this year, according to the statement."
Some of the comments on the Huffington Post story are so sad. Here's a sampling:
"The true irony with this is that the photographs from the *first* Kodachrome batch will outlast all of these digital images that people take today. The best record for magnetic media is under 50 years, at the current rate of fading, a Kodachrome slide can last centuries. I shot one of the last motion picture rolls of Kodachrome on my Super8 movie camera, the haunting images, shot at night on a stage, still are amazing to watch."
"I loved the colors of Kodachrome but at asa 25 & 64 it was way too slow for the type of work I did and Fuji had such nice greens for natural settings. Never-the-less this still feels like the last straw in the dinosaurification of my life's work. I learned my stuff in my twenties from guys in their 60s, 70s and 80s. They are all gone, I'm in my sixties now and there's nobody left around who wants to learn. Haven't taken out my Leicas and Contax for any film work in years. I guess I should sell them and admit it's over."
"The next thing to go is mom's apple pie!"
"GOODBYE Kodachrome... I'll always love you!"
"They give us those nice bright colors. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world's a sunny day... So Mama don't take my Kodachrome away." - Paul Simon
Editor's Note: The bike was ok, but the peanut butter cup was better... that's why it's stashed in the vest pocket. Thanks Kodachrome.