Kodak takes its Kodachrome away

By Colleen Surridge, Parsons Sun July 24, 2010

Freelance photojournalist Steve McCurry, whose work has graced the pages of National Geographic, laid 36 slides representing the last frames of Kodachrome film on the light board sitting on a counter in Dwayne’s Photo Service in Parsons.

He placed a loupe — a magnifier that makes it easier to view film — over one frame and took a closer look.

McCurry told Dwayne’s vice-president, Grant Steinle, how he had chosen to shoot the last roll of Kodachrome produced by Eastman Kodak by capturing images around New York.

“Then we went to India, where I photographed a tribe that is actually on the verge of extinction. It’s actually disappearing, the same way as Kodachrome,” he told Steinle.

Kodak announced last year that it would retire Kodachrome, a brand name of colour-reversal film it had manufactured since 1935. McCurry, well-known for his 1984 photograph of Sharbat Gula, or the “Afghan Girl,” published on the cover of National Geographic magazine, asked Kodak to be allowed to shoot the last roll of 36 frames it manufactured.

National Geographic has closely documented the journey of that last roll, down to its being processed. Dwayne’s is the only photo lab left in the world to handle Kodachrome processing, so National Geographic Television producer Yvonne Russo and National Geographic magazine senior video producer Hans Weise found themselves in Parsons earlier this month, along with McCurry, with the final roll of the iconic film of the 20th century. As a professional freelance photographer, McCurry has used Kodachrome film for 35 years.

“It’s definitely the end of an era,” he said. “It has such a wonderful colour palette … a poetic look, not particularly garish or cartoonish, but wonderful, true colours that were vibrant, but true to what you were shooting.”

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