Visit Page
Skip to content

Kodachrome Calls it Quits

While Kodak stopped manufacturing Kodachrome a year ago, it officially comes to an end today as the last lab in the world to process it, Dwayne’s, shuts down its processing line.

Now, others can tell you of a mysterious Afghan girl photographed with it and known the world over, they can wax eloquent on its look and feel, or they can sing about it knowing that it has become a cultural touchstone, but only here can you see into the world of a sixteen year-old circa 1979…

My room, October, 1979, Princeton, NJ - captured on Kodachrome in all its glory.
My room, October, 1979, Princeton, NJ – captured on Kodachrome in all its glory.

To help decipher this mess of 70’s interior design I’ve created a number key.

Let's do the numbers.
Let’s do the numbers.

1. My room. I’m not quite sure if I shared it with my younger brother at this point. I don’t think I did but some of the objects (Snoopy figurines, water games are patent Phil.) Looking at this photo I’m drawn to say, Mom, what were you thinking? Blue, blue, the red, white and blue. It’s probably fair to say this scarred me for life and created a tendency to go monochromatic if anything.

2. Already into photography for a few years, the upper shelf has some photo manuals that I read cover to cover.

3. Modern Photography magazine. The bible for any photo enthusiast of the time who had yet to develop a fuller sense of art.

4. Super cheesy tan and brown vinyl camera bag.

5. Yellow terrycloth robe. As I recall it was good for pulling all threads out.

6. Vivitar flash box. I’m guessing it just arrived and I took the photo to test the flash. It was most likely a Vivitar 283 or 285. Standard issue for the time.

7. Box the flash came in (?) From B&H no doubt. An early customer, it’s thirty-one years… I’m still waiting for that B&H sponsorship.

8. Kodak yellow. Must be a box for a carousel slide tray.

9. Some of my photos on the wall. Printed in my makeshift basement darkroom. That’s Shecky, our German Shorthaired Pointer, always a willing subject.

10. Photo of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. I was very proud if this image for its tones, contrast, and the challenge of overcoming the bright snow. It felt Ansel Adams’y, which is to say that for some reason all the stars aligned and despite my limited skills I mistakenly created a b&w print with a full tonal range.

11. Photo of trail in the woods which I think I thought put me in a league with Eugene Smith.

12. Photos of dioramas I created from little items bought in Maine or North Carolina (e.g. lighthouse, seagull.)

13. College banners – a little indirect pressure to get me thinking about schools.

14. The family’s previous b&w TV. I’d say old but it had only just been replaced with a color one. Technology traveled slow in the Roemer household. What I remember most about this TV was the remote. It was large, only had four buttons on it, and it was completely mechanical. Press a button, hear a loud click, feel the remote vibrate. If you looked in the end of it it had four metal rods. Don’t know what they did or how they worked but it was all very tactile.

15. The family’s old slide projector. An Argus? It took rectangular trays.

16. Vaporizer on a table. The table obviously picked to match the robe.

When I started as a professional photographer in the mid-eighties Kodachrome was becoming less prevalent more due to its inconvenience than anything. If you worked with quick deadlines then E-6 was tough to beat. Three-hour turn-arounds, clip tests, and Fuji, then Kodak, providing more natural E-6 emulsions.

I shot some jobs on Kodachrome, and Kodak did make a stab at reinvigorating it by offering at a higher speed, ASA 200, but for me I quickly switched to Fujichrome.

Leonard Bernstein celebrates his 70th at ASCAP. NY, NY. May, 1988. Kodachrome 200.
Leonard Bernstein celebrates his 70th at ASCAP. NY, NY. May, 1988. Kodachrome 200.