January has been all about Kodachrome. In my quest to learn more about this now discontinued and film, I have searched the Internet, Flickr, my friends, the last photo lab on the planet to develop it, and waited patiently for the one and only roll I ever shot to show up in the mail. In this time, I have had the opportunity to see beautiful photos, meet new people, discover new and interesting projects by new-to-me artists, and understand how Kodachrome impacted the world of photography for the past three generations.
I mentioned in an earlier post how several of my friends got their hands on some Kodachrome for free. So, I sent him an email to find out the scoop. Dave C., or MaineDave as he’s known on Flickr, found a pretty large inventory of Kodachrome in the central supply department of his work and, knowing that it was no longer being made, asked for a few rolls to play around with.
“I sent them off to Dwayne's and was so excited to get back these thin little colorful jewels! Even expired, the film was remarkable! I contacted central supply again and was told that they had over 100 rolls in their stock, some of which had expired in 1991. I told them about the last day for processing and after several calls over a couple of weeks, we were able to work out a deal where they would give me all the film and I would give them out to people who would use them. The film would have been useless after December 30th and no one had ordered any film in quite a long time anyway.
67 rolls of Kodachrome 25, all expired in the years 1990-1997, ready to be given away, exposed, and developed before 12-30-2010 (more here and here). Photo by Dave C.
I got around 150 rolls total, dating from about 1990 to about 2004. The boxes were of a couple of different styles - some were just in single boxes others were in shrink-wrapped plastic bricks of 10 rolls. I trolled the groups in Flickr looking for people who were interested in shooting some, contacted some Flickr friends and quite a few Flickr strangers. I asked everyone to ask their friends and by December 17th, I was able to give away the last one.
Belfast, Maine on Kodachrome 25, expiry 1991, Photo by Dave C.
A lady whom I know on Flickr from Oklahoma City who scans old Kodachrome slides and old found photos took 5 and asked for 5 to be sent to her friend in Arlington, Texas. A Flickr friend who hasn't shot film in a while over in Columbus, Ohio asked for 5 as well. I gave some to a young girl in the photo club at the local university-she took one for her and one for her friend. FOUR people in Arlington, Virginia! Somehow someone on a photography/skateboarding website found out and asked for some and told his friends. All told, I gave film to people from Los Angeles to Prince Edward Island and Vancouver to Miami.
Treasure Island, Florida on Kodachrome 64, Photo by Dave C.
I kept 16 rolls for myself, with the last 6 being shot over 5 days while visiting home in Los Angeles. On the 27th I finished off my last role and drove as fast as I could to a place where I could send them 2-day via UPS- I wanted to give them an extra day for weather. I used the last frame of my last roll while in the parking lot to shoot a picture of the beautiful blue sky over L.A. that I miss so much in Maine. I took the film out and assembled the package in front of the Indian man who ran the mailbox shop. He was impressed to see film and told me about his father who used Kodachrome film when he was child in India.
I wrote a check for $94 to Dwayne's (still haven't told my partner about THAT!) and paid the man behind the counter $35. That was that. It was actually a relief to finally have it overwith. There was pressure to make sure I got all the film given out and to make sure I had my own film in on time. I'd go to the post office every few days with more packages. The deal was that if I gave people the film, they would just reimburse me with the cost of the postage and post a few of their Kodachrome images in my Flickr group. (When I heard that there was no more Kodachrome being produced, I bought the domain kodachrome.us which forwards to the group).
I feel very very lucky to have been able to do this. Not only did *I* get to use some of this film, but I helped others rediscover how fun film is and others to learn more about this media that was on its way out when they were just kids. I have some of my father's slides from when he was fighting in Korea in 1952 and they look so brilliant. I can't wait to get these last 8 rolls back.” - Dave C.
In the meantime, my own roll of Kodachrome arrived. One roll of film, eleven days to shoot it, $18 two-day shipping, $10 for processing, and $4.50 return shipping later, I’m holding the strip up in window. Slides sure are bright and pretty when held up to the light like that and I am always a little disappointed once they are scanned and lose a lot of their lustre. The combination of low ISO (64) and dim December sunlight made exposure difficult, though several shots turned out thanks to bracketing. Changing my view from black and white to color was another challenge.
Clothesline, December 25, 2010, photo by Angela Kleis
Overall, it is clear that shooting one roll of any film is not sufficient to learn its characteristics though I am thankful for the opportunity made possible by Chris Chen. Be sure to check Chris’ photostream for the next several months as he posts his own photos (65 rolls of film will take awhile!).
Rt. 60 East, Powhatan, December 25, 2010, photo by Angela Kleis
I think the most valuable part of the Kodachrome experience, for me, was learning its history, its photographers, its integration into photographic history, and its indelible mark on how many of us viewed the world in Kodachrome colors without even knowing it, and that is what makes it so special. Learning more about this iconic film, now gone the way of the dodo bird, was a fun project. Hopefully these posts were insightful to you, as well.