Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Farewell, Kodachrome

This article makes me very sad. Kodachrome has been discontinued. The last lab which process it will stop doing so later on this year. I've got to go through my stuff and make sure there are no stray rolls in a camera bag or a box.

Kodachrome is a beautiful film. I love being able to open a box of slides that is older than I am and look at the spectacular color. I know that I won't be able to retrieve images I've made since going digital unless I make a concerted effort to migrate files to new storage devices and the newest operating systems. With Kodachrome, I simply open the box.

Some of my favorite images were made on Kodachrome, with its rich reds and deep saturation. And, unlike many of my Ektachrome images, it doesn't fade easily. I look forward to having my files of photographs easily accessible to me very soon, after years of being in storage. But I know that the slides I made in 1974 and 1975 when camping across the United States and Canada are likely to be in need of restoration.

I processed those E-6 images myself, improvising a dark room in a bathroom. Each tank took an hour, with temperatures that could vary from bath to bath by only half a degree. It was magic, but it wasn't Kodachrome, with its exacting standards and (reportedly) toxic chemicals which could not be processed at home.

I interviewed for a job at the Kodak lab in Palo Alto back in 1974. I needed a job, but working assembly-line style for minimum wage would not have suited me at all. That lab, if it is still around, no longer processes Kodachrome. I think there was a Kodak lab in Gaithersburg, when I lived in the D.C. area. No more. A & I on Highland was my lab here in L.A., but it hasn't processed Kodachrome for a very long time.

It is sad that Paul Simon refused the invitation to be immortalized on the last roll of Kodachrome film. But I still think that his song "Kodachrome" did a great job of capturing what the film was all about.

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