We used to look at them in the dark- while the slide projector filled the room with its humming motor sounds, we patiently awaited that typical “click” that introduced each new, vividly coloured image.
Our old family slides from the 1970s.
They all just looked so…well, GOOD.
And they looked this good, with their high contrast and deep colours, because of Kodachrome.
Then, in 2009, Kodak announced that it would stop producing this iconic film, after nearly 75 years in production.
Photographer Steve McCurry, who captured more than 800.000 images on the film, asked if he could have the last roll of Kodachrome off the assembly line.
And 6 weeks and 40 min later, the slides were ready to be mounted and viewed.
In the short National Geographic docu that followed McCurry on his journey to shoot the precious last 36 Kodachrome exposures in New York, India and Kansas, we get to see this exact moment. Steve looks at the frames, sighs and simply says:
“I’ve just decided: I think I’m going to give up digital photography and go back to Kodachrome”
And that was it, the end of an era.
This is an overview of the last roll, McCurry’s tribute to Kodachrome about which he states on his website:
“… I wanted to pay tribute to an old friend and in some way have have the subjects share some thematic symmetry with the end.
There is a nomadic tribe in India, whose wandring way of life is coming to an end. I felt that with this roll of Kodachrome, one of the best films ever made, this would be an appropriate subject, as Kodachrome was disappearing as well.
I also wanted to photograph New York, and the icons that make the city what it is. Robert De Niro was very interested in this project. I shot him and I also photographed Grand Central Terminal, Union Square Park, and Washington Square Park, which are some of my favorite places in the city.”
And these are the slides from that historic final roll, with a frame by frame description:
Frame 1: Actor Robert De Niro in his screening room in Tribeca, in New York City, May 2010.
(Frame 2, not shown, is a near duplicate.)
Frame 3: De Niro in his screening room, May 2010.
(Frame 4, not shown, is a near duplicate.)
Frame 5: De Niro in his office in Tribeca, May 2010.
(Frame 6, not shown, is a near duplicate.)
Frame 7: Indian film actor, director, and producer Aamir Khan in India, June 2010.
Frame 8: A boy in a tea shop in Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, near Mumbai, India, June 2010.
(Frame 9, not shown, is a near duplicate.)
Frame 10: A sculpture studio in Mumbai that produces statues of notable Indian personages and Hindu gods, June 2010.
Frame 11: Indian writer and actress Shenaz Treasurywala, in India, June 2010.
Frame 12: Indian film actress and director Nandita Das, in India, June 2010.
Frame 13: Shekhar Kapur, director of Elizabeth, in India, June 2010.
Frame 14: Amitabh Bachchan, one of the country’s most prominent actors, in India, June 2010.
Frame 15: A Rabari tribal elder, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 16: A Rabari tribal elder, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 17: A Rabari tribal elder, who is also an itinerant magician, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 18: A Rabari tribal elder and itinerant magician, photographed in India, June 2010. (Frame 19, not shown, is a near duplicate.)
Frame 20: A Rabari woman, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 21: A Rabari woman, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 22: A Rabari girl, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 23: An elderly Rabari woman, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 24: A Rabari boy, photographed in India, June 2010.
Frame 25: Turkish photographer Ara Guler (“The Eye of Istanbul”), in Istanbul, Turkey, June 2010.
Frame 26: Street art at Seventh Avenue and Bleecker Street, in New York City, July 2010.
Frame 27: Grand Central Terminal, in New York City, July 2010.
Frame 28: A woman reading on a Saturday afternoon in Washington Square Park, in New York City, July 2010.
Frame 29: A street performer in Washington Square Park, July 2010.
Frame 30: Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt in his Central Park West studio, in New York City, July 2010.
Frame 31: A young couple in Union Square, in New York City, July 2010.
Frame 32: A self-portrait of Steve McCurry, taken in Manhattan, July 2010.
Frame 33: A man on a bench in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Union Square, July 2010.
Frame 34: McCurry at four a.m. in his hotel room watching a Stephen Colbert interview on television, in Parsons, Kansas, July 2010.
Frame 35: A local man sleeps outside a community center in Parsons, July 2010.
Frame 36: A statue in a cemetery in Parsons, home to the last photographic lab in the world that developed Kodachrome film, July 2010.
What Steve McCurry doesn’t mention on his website, are the final three photographs.
The images that were taken in Parsons, Kansas, which is the location of Dwayne’s Photo, the only remaining lab on Earth that still developed Kodachrome.
But perhaps it’s that last frame of the film, that is most symbolic: a funeral monument for a sailor, staring out to the sea.
By his feet are red and yellow flowers, the same colours that the film packs used to have.
Thank you Kodachrome, we salute you!
** Source for frame by frame slide background : Dave Friend, for Vanity Fair in Feb 9, 2011
Documentary by Nat Geo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUL6MBVKVLI