Glyphs of Time :: a blog by jarvis grant

July 25, 2010

Kodachrome, makes all the world a sunny day…

Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl

Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl", 1984, Peshawar, Pakistan, on Kodachrome film

I had stumbled upon an article, thanks to Michaela Brown on Facebook, about Steve McCurry and the Last Roll of Kodachrome on NPR’s photo blog, The Picture Show. McCurry, is the photographer who shot that iconic cover of the Afghan Girl for National Geographic back in the 80’s. Kodak stopped the production of Kodachrome slide film last year, and has given the Mc Curry the last roll of that classic film that came off the assembly line. To get the details and hear a brief interview click on the link above.

When I was in college, I learned my photographic color theory from Pete Turner, Jay Maisel, and Art Kane. Back in the early 70’s there was still the question if photography was “art”. Although color theory is color theory, I was being taught by painters. That’s not a problem, but the practical application of it to my medium was. Instead of bitching & moaning about it, I turned to those three masters of color photography and studied their approach to image making. Well, Kodachrome seemed to be their weapon of choice and I did the same. It was quite different to handle coming from Tri-X with an ASA (sorry!) ISO of 400 usually pushed to 800.

It took a bit getting used to ISO 25! But man the color was deep and rich. Then in the 80’s I switched to Kodachrome 64, a bump of a whole f/stop. Then came Kodachrome 200, but it seemed scurrilous to use it! Yet, the film was gaining in greater popularity and Kodak, who were the only ones processing the film, began to grant the license  to a few other independent labs to process the film. That was the beginning of the end of Kodachrome, at least for me.

But with Photoshop & the “new” inkjet technologies seemed to bring back Kodachrome’s glory days! I could now get a high rez scan of an old Kodachrome slide that was once a real pain and expensive  to print, and produce a great print. The best part being , I was the one making the print, not an overpriced custom lab.

Well, Kodachrome I’m sorry to see ya go. Maybe it’s time to shoot those last few rolls I have in the back of the fridge before the chemistry is gone too!

The Blue Playground

The Blue Playground: Kodachrome 64 scan made with Nikon Coolscan ED8000 scanner of my daughter Maya at Hartly Park, Mt. vernon, NY 1983