Saturday, 15 February 2014

Kodachrome: A Mock Horde

There comes a point in a man's life when he spends more time looking through boxes of old things than he does buying new things. Today we're going to have one last look at Kodachrome. It's been dead for years and will remain dead forevermore. Kodak continued to make it until 2009, and it could be sent off for processing until 2010, but it had been a minority taste for some time. It ended as a niche within a niche. Landscape photographers switched to Fuji. The processing was too slow for newspapers. The average everyday ordinary man and woman used disposable cameras, which were loaded with print film.

I shot a few rolls back in 2009, to no great effect. My mind was elsewhere and I was out of shape. But a chance conversation drew me to the last few boxes from Lausanne, which I had in turn put into a box which was underneath some more boxes. Not enough images to assemble a narrative beyond their shared medium.

Barcelona - it was the first time that we met.

Kodachrome was famous for its longevity, its bold contrast, and its distinctive colours, which I think of as crisp. I was first exposed to it by National Geographic magazine, specifically a story that ran in the October 1981 issue, The Troubled Waters of Mono Lake". It had some striking shots of the lake's limestone formations, or tufa.

There is a scan of the article here; the first and particularly last images struck me most. I will only see a tiny fraction of this planet, my young self thought, and even if I could go everywhere, I would not be able to keep it.

In the professional world, Kodachrome would have been run through Photoshop, or whatever no-doubt-expensive custom-made predecessor photographers used in the 1980s, and so my memories of Kodachrome are not really of Kodachrome at all. All of these shots were scanned with an Epson V500 desktop and then processed so that they resemble the slide, held up to the light.