Well you all know that Kodachrome is dead. Ya-da, ya-da. The retrospectives and homages that spilled out for weeks about how Kodachrome was and forever will be The King, Elvis not withstanding, just kinda bugged me. And that all, as I’m sure you are expecting, got me to thinking.
1) I learned to shoot color on Kodachrome K64. I spent my early years running around with either that or K25 in my cameras learning how to get my technicals correct. My images were boring but I got to understand color and exposure under the worst conditions.
2) To most of the world until about 1984 Kodachrome was what color photography looked like and as a result it imprinted itself onto the world’s collective consciousness. That changed when Fuji released Velvia and the modern “hot wet color” look was born. To me that meant that Kodachrome at that point became a look of the past where Fuji was the present. Upon seeing what Velvia looked like, I dropped Kodachrome like a two-timing girlfriend.
3) When digital became a practical reality I didn’t like the linear way that the capture looked. You know what I mean: reds are red and blues are just blue. There was no character to the image and that bothered a lot of pro shooters who had spent years learning and loving what certain film stocks, like Kodachrome, gave us. So I spent a while making a look in Photoshop that didn’t look manipulated but had some of the character of my then go to film stock: Fuji Provia 100. I considered getting a Kodachrome like look but gosh darned it, it just had a muddiness that didn’t feel right.
4) This made me think about my emotional sense of color and what that meant to me. In relation to our modern sense of color that both Fuji Velvia and digital capture/processing has produced, Kodachrome has a soft, faded and nostalgic look way after many people forgot how Kodachrome looked. It is slightly dream like and that made it special again: that whole 1970’s nostalgia thing that has been around lately. But that doesn’t work for me. I’m not nostalgic; I’m romantic and romance is being in the moment not in the remembering. To me the glory of “now” is how clear and present it is. That said I also have a thing for B&W but then that is another post.
5) For the last decade, wow that makes me feel old, millions of photographers have only shot digitally. They never used a film camera and have no idea how being able to master that fickle medium makes you a better photographer. Kodachrome was the training tool for just about us all until about 1999 when that paradigm shift happened. Now that film processing is hard to come by it makes me wonder what the next decade will do for our craft. Will we just move on or will that lack of “if you botched it you botched it” hurt us? I dunno.
Then again when film quickly replaced wet plate photography all the old dudes pulled their hair and cried that the craft had gone to hell with this fancy new shortcut. I don’t think that digital capture is a short cut and I don’t think that the craft has necessarily been hurt. It’s certainly changed. The end of the Kodachrome era of color photography is just that: the end of an era. As one comes to a close another begins. I am quite interested to see what happens next.
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