|You are not logged in. Click here to log in now. | Switch to our mobile site→||My Profile My Galleries My Networks|
June 22nd, 2009, 7 AM Eastern Standard time:
Today, Eastman Kodak Corporation has officially announced the retirement of Kodachrome 64, the last remaining variation of legendary Kodachrome Color Film. This includes both consumer 135 KR-64-36 and professional 135 PKR-64-36 versions. However, Kodak and the only remaining lab in the world that develops Kodachrome have contracted to honor customer’s requests for Kodachrome processing until at least 12/31/2010. In addition to this support, Kodak has stated that in current production and supply, Kodachrome film should be available until early Fall of this year with distribution that is considerate to all who would want to use it.Â
Â“"Kodachrome Film is an iconic product and a testament to KodakÂ’’s long and continuing leadership in imaging technology",Â” said Mary Jane Hellyar, President of KodakÂ’’s Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group. “It was certainly a difficult decision to retire it, given it’s rich history. However, the majority of today’s photographers have voiced their preference to capture images with newer technology,Â– both film and digital. Kodak remains committed to providing the highest-performing products Â–both film and digital Â–to meet those needs.Â””
As cited in a press release given by Kodak this morning, Kodachrome Film in current use now represents just a fraction of one percent of KodakÂ’’s total sales of still-picture films. Retired Kodak engineers Ron Mowrey and Robert Shanebrook both recently agreed that there were probably never more than a dozen Kodachrome labs running at the same time even globally as the process is unlike any other film. The unique factor being that unlike most film processing being the normal 3-7 reasonably controllable steps, Â“Kodachrome film processing requires what is basically an in house chemist to attend to the no less than fourteen distinct steps to finalize the image. Single Kodachrome lab installations have been known to reach $500,000 for some of the largest operations.Â Now there is just one remaining lab in the world in the heartland of the United States.
Yet despite these profound statistics, for over 7 decades, Kodachrome film has remained one of the most prominant photographic icons in pop-culture history. As the brainchild of two musicians partnered with Kodak, Kodachrome FIlm was a standing ovation hit right from itÂ’’s introduction in 1935. So by the time musician Paul Simon released the hit song Â“"KodachromeÂ”" in 1973, the thousands of images that had appeared in powerfully storied magazines had drastically changed the way the world viewed the photograph, and the home movie or slide show had become the event for a Saturday night in homes for decades. Some of the photography accomplished on Kodachrome film has represented one of the highest standards of photojournalism in history from the the Great Depression era photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Russell Lee to the thousands of images in magazines such as Life and national Geographic. One of the more memorable recent Kodachrome images is Steve McCurryÂ’’s piercing 1985 National Geographic cover called Â“Afghan GirlÂ”. In a movement that resonates corporation’Â’s recognition of the Kodachrome product as an era, Kodak will donate the last rolls of the film made to the George Eastman House of Photography and Film with Steve McCurry shooting one of those last rolls as a donation it self.Â
Â“"The early part of my career was dominated by Kodachrome Film, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images",Â” said McCurry. Â“"While Kodachrome Film was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images. In fact, when I returned to shoot the Â‘"Afghan GirlÂ’" 17 years later, I used Kodak Professional Ektachrome Film E100VS to create that image, rather than Kodachrome Film as with the original."Â” In addition to creating newer films that have enabled photographers like McCurry to make powerful images more efficiently and with more options for stable processing, Kodak has recently introduced new consumer films like the recent hit Â“Ektar 100Â” Color Negative film and two new motion picture films in the past three years in the form of Â“Vision2Â” and Â“Vision3Â” motion picture stocks.
But as these new films and even digital start to gain on Kodachrome in terms of technical quality and easily surpass the iconic medium in ease of use, attention is starting to turn on to several unique attributes of the decades old film that is the only photographic medium to have a State Park named after it. Only a month ago, Sports Illustrated released a book called Â“"SlideshowÂ”" that presents some of the more memorable images from their vast archive shot on slide film. this has been presented in a manner of the total scope of story telling as the slide mounts themselves bear the labels & handwriting of an illustrious journey as they tell a different story in addition to the actual photograph. Many of the images in the magazineÂ’’s archive were shot on Kodachrome and simply appear as the entire slide on the page, labels and scribbles included with an accompanying essay. One of the most profound things about Kodachrome in recent times is that it has been shown very consistently that with reasonable care, the quality of the movies and photographs from professionals and amateurs made with the film can last several lifetimes with virtually no fading whatsoever. This has enticed individuals and magazines to examine their collections and those of others as the old slides take on a new life or permanency as they can be simply held up to the sky to be seen. While digital will always require some from of electronic output to be viewed, Kodachromes will remain a simple and yet richly vivid way to view the past with unrivaled archival stability. Newer slide films may now claim to have an equally archival duration, but Kodachrome has fully proven it’Â’s worth better than any other color film for nearly 75 years.
So the notion of actually celebrating a photographic era as powerful as Kodachrome at 75 years inspired one Colorado photographer to start an early petition to keep Kodachrome around long enough to accomplish that tribute to the film. In 2004, Daniel Bayer created the Â“"Kodachrome ProjectÂ”", eventually creating an online awareness that the era should be visually celebrated with the passion of shooting the film instead of coming to a close quietly. Â“"The language of light and itÂ’s play upon our world has always kept my attention focused in photography. What Kodachrome requires of a photographerÂ’’s ability to read light for a masterful result is what sets it apart for me. I could not imagine passing on the opportunity of shooting Kodachrome now as a means to pay a personal tribute to the impact it has had in my lifeÂ”." said bayer as he was relieve to see that Kodak would indeed keep the film and processing around long enough for those involved with the project to truly give the era it’s due.
In a spectacle of a life the span of the average human, the Kodachrome era has taken on a life that is greater than any one person who has used it, any subject portrayed with it and even Kodak itself. When the years pass the date of KodachromeÂ’’s conclusion as a medium and one then looks at what the era truly stands for, the notion that Kodachrome was used for 75 years with such a tremendous impact and will continue to live on as if it were born at the fountain of youth could make one come to the conclusion that Momma never could take Kodachrome away and never will.