The End of An Era
It’s the end of the line for Kodachrome, the first commercially successful color film, created by Kodak in 1935. The iconic film will no longer be processed, as Thursday marked the last time Dwayne’s Photo — a lab in Parsons, Kansas — was willing to accept Kodachrome rolls that needed developing.
Kodachrome’s demise was first announced in June 2009. Kodak cited a decline in sales as photographers had traded their old film for digital memory cards — or, in some cases, newer films. This meant that the company also stopped producing the chemicals needed to develop the film.
As The New York Times reported Wednesday, there was a time when there were about 25 labs in the world that could process Kodachrome film. But the number of labs began to decline a few years ago when the last Kodak-run facility in the U.S. closed, followed by another closure in Japan and another in Switzerland. Dwayne’s Photo was the last place still developing Kodachrome, but last week, the lab opened the last of the chemicals used to process the film.
Even though Kodachrome saw diminishing sales toward its end, this is the end of an era for a number of photographers and photography buffs. The film — currently trending at number seven on Google in the U.S. — was noted for capturing rich color and light in a way that many say cannot be replicated by digital cameras or apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram. As Paul Simon noted in his 1973 song — titled, “Kodachrome,” of course — ”You give us those nice bright colors/ You give us the greens of summers/ Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day.”
The film was used to take some world-famous photographs, including Steve McCurry’s National Geographic1985 cover image of a young Afghan girl. Incidentally, Kodak gave McCurry the last roll of Kodachrome last year. The photographer, who hand-delivered the final roll to Parsons after he finished shooting, has posted some of the last 36 frames on his blog.
Meanwhile, as the Times noted, the last roll to be processed at Dwayne’s Photo belongs to owner Dwayne Steinle. The final frame will feature all his employees standing in front of the business wearing shirts that commemorate the film’s official retirement.