I’d heard the name but never took the time to investigate. I don’t typically shoot color, not since I discovered the world of black and white and was old enough to drive and no longer relied on the film mailers from the Sunday paper. Most of what I see through the viewfinder is in black and white, anyway; I don’t see colors unless they are a deep blue spotted with puffy white clouds, flowers, green grass, or rainbows - things I generally experience rather than photograph. Slide film was more expensive and needed a projector, an object that wasn’t present in my childhood except for the rare occasion at a friend’s house. I tend to use color not for what I am photographing but to capture a different realm of the world, when the distraction of color is ok. I mainly photograph in color when I feel like I am supposed to.
So, when Kodak announced the end to its iconic film, it did not resonate in me like it did others.
Even though Kodak announced the end of production in June 2009, many, many rolls of Kodachrome remained on store shelves, in dark refrigerators, and on Ebay. It was widely available, though inventories were finite, and my friends and photographers around the world continued to expose these last rolls frame-by-frame. Some were saved for special occasions, some were shot aimlessly, and things were fine until something happened: Dwayne’s Photo, the only photo developing lab in the United States still processing the film, announced in September 2010 that their developing chemicals were running out and they would no longer accept the film after December 30.
Talk about scrambling! Time was running out - this precious film must be shot or it would remain unexposed forever: wasted. Vendors were selling, photographers were buying, and everyone was shooting, mailing, scanning, and posting. Except for me.
There was even one guy who found 300 rolls in his refrigerator and offered them up for free on Twitter. Several of my friends received some of those free rolls of film. I didn’t take advantage of the offer.
Then, last month at a holiday get-together, my friend Chris Chen handed me a roll of Kodachrome with the caveat, “don’t waste it.” I was reminded of the deadline and, once again, to make sure I shot it. Turns out, Chris was on a mission and shot and shipped out “approximately 65 rolls in November & December 2010, leaving 3 rolls unshot to be processed should it be revived, Jurassic Park-style.”
In an effort to understand more about this film, I did what everyone who wants more information does: I googled it. Wikipedia tells me that “Kodachrome is the trademarked brand name of a type of color reversal film that was manufactured by Eastman Kodak from 1935 to 2009.”
What exactly is color reversal film? It means slides. A slide is a positive image on a transparent base and can be projected or printed. There are a lot of slide films, so what makes Kodachrome so special? Paul Simon wrote a song about it; Utah named a park after it. The most recognized photograph in the history of National Geographic magazine was taken on Kodachrome. -this is what I want to find out.
And, I hopefully will as soon as that roll of Kodachrome shows up in my mailbox. In the meantime, I am interviewing photographers, collecting images, and even have a few questions sent in to Dwayne’s Photo, but they might be too busy to respond.
More next week...