“They give us those nice bright colors. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day. … So Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away,” sang Paul Simon in 1973 hit ‘Kodachrome’. But now after 74-year in service, they are finally going to take Kodachromes away.
Dwindling sales, limited revenues and the move by most labs to stop processing it compelled Kodak company to stop producing the Kodachrome. When it debuted in 1935, it was the world’s first commercially successful color film. It cost $5 per roll and had to be sent back to the company’s head quarters in Rochester, New York for development. In the age when minimum wage was 25 cents per hour, it wasn’t entirely accessible but the century’s most memorable images are captured on Kodachrome; the only color photos of the Hindenburg Explosion, the conquest of Mt. Everest, Zapruder film, and Steve McCurry’s National Geographic over of an Afghan refugee girl in 1985 were all in Kodachrome. Generation after generation grew up with family photos (coupled with slideshows made on carousel projectors) made in Kodachrome.
At Kodak’s request, McCurry will shoot one of the last rolls of Kodachrome film and donate the images to the George Eastman House museum. McCurry had gave up Kodachrome long ago. He shot his iconic portrait on Kodachrome but returned 17 years later to photograph the same woman with Kodak’s easier-to-develop Ektachrome. Now, he uses on digital.
Above, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Kodachrome for LIFE, 1950.