Monday, June 22, 2009

Singing about a vanishing icon

If you want to find Kodachrome after this fall, you’ll have to go see Paul Simon in concert or dig out an album. Kodak announced today that another American icon - born 74 years ago - is about to leave the planet.

That’s right, it is retiring the oldest (born in 1935) film in its portfolio because of slumping demand with photographers' combined shift to digital and/or newer fine-grain films. Unexpected? Hardly. Sad just the same. I knew one iconic music photographer who used it exclusively for his color work. David Gahr must be spinning in his grave - or perhaps smiling that Kodachrome outlasted him - barely. Perhaps he saw it coming.

Photojournalist Steve McCurry used Kodachrome when he shot his iconic and haunting National Geographic 1985 cover image of a young Afghan girl. Kodak said today it will donate “the last rolls” of the film to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester NY, and that McCurry will shoot one of those last rolls for images to be donated to Eastman House.

In a few years, the younger generation will be scratching its collective head wondering what Simon was singing about. So sing now, Paul, while America briefly waxes nostalgic.

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