For the past 75 years, photons bouncing off various people and objects have sometimes been captured, at the click of a button, on the surface of a film called Kodachrome. Kodachrome is not only one of the most recognizable brands of photographic film, but its history ecompasses the entirety of accessible color photgraphy. In 2009, Kodak stopped production of Kodachrome and on December 30, 2010, the only lab left in the world with the ability to process it discontinued that service. I decided to shoot one roll of Kodachrome before it was too late and I just received the results via airmail from Kansas.
The whole time I was shooting this roll of film, I kept thinking about photons (yup, I'm a nerd). Many of my subjects, such as Zürich's Grossmunster, have been shot on Kodachrome countless times. As I clicked the shutter, I thought that this would probably be the last time the photons boucing off these objects would come in contact with Kodachrome. Having never shot Kodachrome before, I felt a bit like an archeaologist, wandering the city of Zürich, exploring the properties of something that is now relegated to history. I was very careful in making each shot, and had a list of people and places I wanted to photograph. I also marked down the time and exposure settings for each shot for posterity. I snapped the last photo (a blurry self-portrait) and sent off the film on the 17th of December, just 13 days before the deadline.
I waited patiently to hear news from Dwayne's or see that my credit card had been charged so I could confirm that my film made it on time. After two weeks and no sign, I got nervous and gave Dwayne's a call. I was told by a very friendly staff member that my film made it with three days to spare. However, they were running behind by about three weeks due to the volume of film that they had recieved in the days approaching the deadline. That was understandable, considering one man turned in 1500 rolls by himself. The box finally arrived and I got the first look at my film.
The film looks just as good as I thought it would. Very clean and sharp, nice color renditions. However, it was (as I expected) a pain to scan. Kodachrome is very unique in the way its color layers are arranged. This makes it tricky for scanners to deal with (and one of the reasons why they discontinued it). I had to tweak the settings individually for each scan because I didn't want to invest in an it8 calibration slide. I think my scans are pretty good, but still not 100% of the originals. The one thing that really stood out to me about Kodachrome is its excellent rendering of skin tone.
Overall, though happy with the film, I understand Kodak's decision. Kodachrome has a unique look, but not so unique that more modern slide films can't do the same work. Kodachrome has to be processed in its own special way, where other slide films share the same process. Also, in the end, most film is digitized anyway, and the process to digitize Kodachrome is cumbersome. I am glad I had the experience of shooting this historic film, but all good things must come to an end.
One Roll of Kodachrome
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