The Last Days of Kodachrome

There's some wonderful stuff going on in the world of photography. The unremarkable announcements at the latest photo trade show have begun to hint at the technological development in the realm of digital photography having reached a plateau: Canon and Nikon are so head-to-head that it would be foolish of them to hold back any new R&D in the hope of making customers upgrade, so I believe the cameras we are seeing are the height of the technology as it exists at present. Meanwhile, rumors of the death of film have been greatly exaggerated: if it is a death it is a slow one, and there's plenty of room in my fridge to stockpile enough to keep me going for some time. And more and more photographers who have dropped money on digital are talking, at least on forums, of a return to film. There are no new emulsions emerging (except for color negative, where Kodak is still continuing development for the movie market), and there have been a few lamented deaths, but Ilford, Kodak, Agfa, and the new niche players like Efke and Adox have decided on a stable of favorites to continue. And a few that I thought were dead are surprisngly still going: Kodachrome, which I wished a fond farewell when Kodak closed down the lab at Lausanne, still has some stock going around (most of it expiring in September of this year) and Dwayne's Photo in Kansas is still processing K-14. Kodak has declined petitions to continue making the film, so buying and using it won't change their minds. But out of nostalgia, out of respect, out of sheer obstinacy, and out of sheer love, it behooves us all who used and appreciated this film, which was somehow true to life and exuberant in its interpretation of color (a combination that cannot be approximated by Provia, no matter what anyone says), to shoot the last few rolls and not let them expire be binned to history.

And how much longer will Minox make Minopan and Minocolor in those wonderful little cartridges? I recently discovered that the film is still available, and processing still being done in Germany. I promptly bought a cheap Minox B off eBay and am experimenting with my first roll of 8x11. I was recently on the receiving end of some not very pleasant behavior when took a bit too long find a focus point with the Leica down at Farringdon, but no one is threatened by a Minox. At the worst they think you're rubbing your eyes with a harmonica.

Spring is here and the daffodils are out, and in the sunlight even the most mundane things are gorgeous and textured and contrasty. If this isn't a time for Kodachrome, I don't know when it is. Between now and September I'm planning to shoot as much as I can on this film, and see through the eyes of this film: a world that's both real and larger than life.

Picture: Victory in Europe, June 1945

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