Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Backwards...And Off To The Side: Kodachrome

2010 In "The World I Thought I Knew Is Dead", Part 2: One thing film preservationists always tell you is that if you have a well-stored film negative, you can always go back to it and make a print that looks just as amazing as the first one. Going forward, if you try to get a Kodachrome negative processed, what you'll get back will be in colorful black-and-white.

Kodachrome, the first successfully mass-marketed color film, officially ended in 2009 when the last roll of the film was manufactured, but Kodak promised to supply Dwayne's Photo, home of the last Kodachrome processing machine still in operation, with the necessary chemicals to develop the film until the end of 2010. Well sir, it's the end of 2010, and yesterday the machine was shut down for the last time.

An example of Kodachrome photography.Even at reduced size, the colors in pictures like this really popped.

Photographers praised the rich color qualities of the Kodachrome system, which introduced the color dyes into the processing stage rather than into the film emulsion itself, but as a Kodak spokesman said, "For all its magic, Kodachrome is a complex film to manufacture and an even more complex film to process." Kodachrome's market share had long been eroded by less expensive rivals such as Fujifilm and Kodak's own Ektachrome, but of course the ring-the-bell moment was brought on by the rise of digital photography.

And if you're saying to yourself, "Kodachrome? Is that anything like Photoshop?", then you'll have to excuse me while I sob uncontrollably in the corner for a few hours.

(Photo: "Shaftesbury Avenue from Picadilly Circus, in the West End of London", Kodachrome photo by Chalmers Butterfield. High resolution scan at other end of link. Used under Creative Commons license ShareAlike 3.0)

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