Kodachrome

Afghan Girl One of the most iconic photos of my generation was this one, called “Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry and featured on National Geographic Magazine’s cover in 1984.

It is often referenced in the world of photography as a perfect example of the use of Kodak’s exalted color slide film known as Kodachrome.

Everyone who ever picked up a 35 mm camera, myself included, wishes they had a photo like this in their portfolio.

With the advent of the smartphone, there was not much mainstream use for this film, and Kodak stopped its manufacture in 2009. It had been around since 1935. An entire industry was wiped out by technological advances; still film production and processing facilities were now dinosaurs. No more one hour photo booths; we could now take a pic, see it and post it on social media within minutes. Everyone with access to a phone was now a photographer.  Really ?

I must admit, I switched over to digital photography for the most part in 2009. The last of my leather-bound tomes of family photos ended abruptly that year. They start with glorious black and white pics of my immigrant ancestors from the early 1900’s. It’s a tradition, and a collection, that I am sad to see come to an end. Of course, I could print the digital pics and place them in the albums; I just know it’s not quite the same. I spent a lot of time and effort over the years with photo processing labs, trying to go for exactly that image I was trying to convey. It was an art form to me.

My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic. It was the prize I received, at age 11,  for placing 2nd in a state parochial school spelling bee. I lost on the word “imbecile”, the winner won on the word “hippopotamus”, which I could recite in my sleep. But, I digress. Old wounds.

It became my prize possession. I couldn’t afford the processing fees much until I took a job (allowances were foreign to a large struggling family), so I had to be very particular about my subject matter. People were my targets, as any of my family members could attest; I was always the annoying one who had a camera in their face. I still do that today, proudly.

My first professional camera, which I still have, was a Canon AT 1. Since nothing on it is automatic, aperture and shutter speed are manually set, it is not one that I can hand off to another to point and shoot. It is also way too heavy for a “selfie”. But, the richness of the color, and the endurance of quality in those decades-old photos and negatives is beyond compare, especially for print photography. Kodachrome.

I heard Paul Simon’s 1973 hit song recently; the words are simple, but have been subject to different interpretations over the years. That’s what happens when poets write song lyrics.

“Kodachrome”

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s
a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

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This entry was posted in Art, Childhood, Education, Family, Inspiration, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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