Kodachrome was first released by Kodak in 1935. Wikipedia tells us that the Kodak Eastman company stopped making Kodachrome film in 2009. It is a pity that Kodak did not keep making it for one more year to give it a 75 year life—but I guess 74 years is not too shabby. I doubt if many of the technologies on the market today will still be on the market in 74 years.
If an article in “The Wichita Eagle” (here) has its facts right then the last rolls of Kodachrome film were processed by Dwayne’s Photo Service in Parsons in the USA this month (July, 2010). It seems that Dwayne’s Photo Service was the last place on the planet that could process Kodachrome slides and they processed the last rolls this July. The machinery is now being decommissioned and moved to the junk yard.
In my pre-digital days I shot off hundreds of rolls of Kodachrome 25 and Kodachrome 64. In Australia the only way to buy Kodachrome was with processing pre-paid. The exposed film was then sent over to the east coast to the only laboratory in Australia that processed Kodachrome. About two weeks later your mounted slides would come back in the mail.
The last rolls of Kodachrome to be exposed were shot by a freelance photojournalist Steve McCurry. It seems that Mr McCurry has done a lot of work that has been published by National Geographic. Doing a search on the National Geographic site for “Steve McCurry” brings up a result list comprising 69 pages.
[Ctrl+Click on the picture at right to see a full list of Mr McCurry’s credits at the National Geographic site]
One of Mr McCurry’s best know photographs is the photograph known as the “Afghan Girl”. This photograph is of 12-year-old female refugee in a camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Quoting from the National Geographic item about this picture:
The girl’s piercing green eyes, shocked with hints of blue and fear, gave away her story. Soviet helicopters destroyed her village and family, forcing her to make a two-week trek out of the perilous mountains of Afghanistan.
[Ctrl+Click on the picture above to go to the National Geographic page about this picture]
Anyone who knows Kodachrome well would just about be able to pick that this photograph was taken using Kodachrome. The hues contained in the Kodachrome palette are distinctive and have that unique Kodachrome solid ‘brick wall opaqueness’ quality about them. I remember when Paint Shop Pro had a filter effect for Kodachrome that attempted to give any digital picture that ‘Kodachrome’ look. Alas it is many years since I have used Paint Shop (and certainly not since it was acquired by Corel—not that I have anything against Corel, in fact Corel Draw is one of my most favourite tools).
According to the item in the Wichita Eagle a story (documentary) is being compiled by National Geographic about the last few rolls of Kodachrome and the backstory on what they were exposed on, so I will be keeping an eye out for that and will blog it if I spot it (assuming I am still doing my blog when that happens).