I just watched a movie on Netflix called, "Kodachrome." If you remember the film days you might want to see it too.

Special thanks to my good friend, Frank, for mentioning this movie to me over coffee this week. He recommended it highly so this evening Belinda and I sat down and watched it. It's about a  famous photographer who is dying and his road trip, with his son, to get four precious rolls of Kodachrome developed before the last Kodachrome development line in the world shuts down.

I cried near the end. Not for the plight or pathos of the characters but because the movie did such a good job reminding my how much I really miss shooting Kodachrome and Tri-X with my old Leica M4 and its attendant 50mm Summicron lens, and how much we've collectively lost in our changes of process and intention.

The shutting down of Kodachrome really seemed to be the signal that an era had ended and it was a time when we were young, idealistic, full of energy, and we worked hard at the making our visions special and real.

At the end of the movie I felt a deep and painful sense of loss. I'd put off grieving the end of my tenure with film and Leica M cameras and the weight of it hit me right between the eyes tonight.

After the movie I came out to the office and looked into the main storage closet. There are metal boxes in there with thousands of color slides; mostly Kodachrome. Next to them on a bookshelf are three different Leica Pradovit projectors. I haven't used then in years.

I'm going to load a tray of slides tomorrow and sit in the dark and look at them the way God and Kodak intended for us to look at color slides; projected large on a clean, white wall.

And then I may just have to reconsider my whole relationship with photography in its current manifestation....


MarcoSartori said...

Watched it two days ago, I enjoyed it.
I'd recommend it also to those not strictly interested into photography.

pixtorial said...


ODL Designs said...

I wonder if people will have the same fondness for their favorite digital sensor :) All of this talk about old digital had my buy a like new E-3 to play with, I always liked the colour from the E-3, and it was accused of having a strong AA filter.

Some fun playing ahead.

Anonymous said...

Although not as hard a hit as you. There was some leakage around the eye area at the end.

Rufus said...

I foresee a schism.

There will your professional life, driven by the inevitable compromise and desire for practicality. This is where digital is irreplaceable. We cannot go back. If you are shooting some boardroom portraits for the web or such like, it will be fine.

And then there is our personal work. You may yet find that when it comes to shooting just for the hell of it, just for YOU, then maybe you do end up with an old Leica again.

Me? I have found Fuji and their lovely JPEG profiles. As someone who hates post processing and would rather be out and about, I just love being able to shoot off multiple different film profiles at the same time - Classic Chrome, Acros B&W, Velvia, whatever...

This is enough to indulge my love of old film.

D Lobato said...

I saw it and had watery eyes at the end. I have thousands of Kodachromes stored in boxes. And the movie restored my memories of Kodachrome film exposed through Leica lenses. And through Nikon lenses since 1977. What a time that was, exciting, optimistic, full of creative energy.

Lynn said...

Something I'll have to put on my list to watch.
Maybe seen as off-topic but I still think its relevant to the discussion.
I was trying to find the perfect quote form a Twilight Zone episode but couldn't (Wikipedia has every episode and season listed?)
Submitted for your approval
What the Mona Lisa Tells Us About Art in the Instagram Era - The New York Times

Thanks for you insight and honesty

Antony J. Shepherd said...

Thanks for the heads up on this one, as I watched it tonight and really loved it.
A bit watery at the end too, I found.

Dan Boney said...

Best line in the whole movie, referencing the loss of projected slides and prints: “digital dust”...

Rokrover said...

Ah yes, Kodachrome….. the movie was poignant as I too had accumulated thousands of slides shot mainly with a Leica M4 that defined an era of my life. I revisited that era a decade ago digitizing the best images to share with family and friends scattered across the world.

This became a monumental task as it took about two minutes per slide with my trusty scanner, a Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400, interfaced to a Power Mac G5 Desktop. Fortunately the scanner had an automated “Digital ICE” function to heal accumulated dust and scratches without adding to post-processing time.

Now the slides languish gathering more dust but the digital library is invaluable to prepare large hardcover gift books with Apple’s Photos routine. Printed books, while more tactile and convenient, still can not match the vibrancy of a projected Kodachrome. I particularly related to the movie’s closing scene where this magic of projection both healed and fostered relationships.

MikeK said...

You know, the first time I discovered your blog was a post about about how you were planning to drop a load of cash to go all in on the top of the line Nikon system of the time (maybe the D3? It was a few years ago...). Mentioning this to friends had them ask you why, as the portraits you'd made with your Hassleblad were as good as anything they'd seen digitally. In some ways nothing ever really changes. How does a nice Hassleblad body cost these days?

Anonymous said...

I used to think Kirk's essays were about cameras and photography and the business of cameras and photography.

Now I see he has moved beyond that. His essays are about the pathos of life and death, and photography is merely the metaphor, the conceit, with which such weighty topics are raised up, suggested, but never quite named.

No one I know of has really delved into the serious matters of photographs and mortality the way that Kirk does. The sunny skies and sunny smiles of people no longer in the picture. The invaluable treasure of past work, as well as the ephemeral inconsequence of the same work.

He has moved far beyond his contemporaries. I don't mean this in a morbid or depressing sense, but in a realistic, confrontational, and pioneering one. He is engaged, he has courage. I am really looking forward to see where he is taking us.

Kodachromeguy said...

Thank you for reminding me about the movie Kodachrome. The end, where he looked at his dad's Kodachromes of his mother and himself as an infant, was moving.

I recall when Kodak announced that it would cease processing 120-size Kodachrome 64 at their UK lab in autumn of 2001. There would be one last session. I am not sure how I got on an email announcement list, but am glad I got the word. That summer, I used up my remaining 120 K64 rolls in Corfu and Albania in my Rolleiflex 3.5E. The lab in UK said they received a huge pile of films from photographers all over the world. I just peeked at the mounted slides, and they are spectacular. I wonder if I can scan them on my Minolta Scan Multi scanner?

Craig Yuill said...

I don't get Netflix, so I won't be seeing Kodachrome the movie anytime soon, but your post did bring back memories I have of using the film. I shot a lot of Kodachrome in the 1980s. The last time I shot with the film was in the early 1990s. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to send the film off in a mailer to be processed and mounted, but I was always pleased with the results when the slides came back a week or two later.

I recall shooting some photos with Kodachrome after a fairly big snowfall. The shadows had very subtle blue tones that other slide films could never quite capture as well. Kodachrome was known for rendering saturated reds brilliantly, but it could also capture subtle shades in various colours as well. Thankfully Kodak and Fuji continued to develop E-6 transparency films through the 1980s and 1990s that had similar qualities to Kodachrome. Ektachrome E100 Professional and Fujichrome Professional E-6 films were very fine indeed. The adoption of digital imaging by photographers led to the demise of most films, but Kodak is supposedly bringing back Ektachrome films. There is even talk that Kodak is looking for a way to bring back Kodachrome. I doubt it will happen, but it will be interesting to see how film continues to be used in the future.