Mama, They’ve Taken My Kodachrome Away

Today’s the day. For generations of photographers, some time this afternoon, there may be a little hollowness in our hearts–Dwayne’s Photo will process the last rolls of Kodachrome today, a film Kodak discontinued last year. In production since 1935, I don’t think anyone knows how many historical and family moments have been recorded on it.

I have an idea for my family. Five years ago, I started scanning my grandfathers slides, about forty years worth of family holidays and vacations. When I finished that, I did my father’s slides–starting in Vietnam in 1966 through his last months in 1986. Between the two collections, I fed more than 10,000 cardboard mounted memories into my scanner. Almost all of them Kodachromes.

Kodachrome was the film I cut my teeth on. Slide film had no exposure latitude–you either got the exposure right, or it wasn’t there. The precision my dad taught me was necessary because of the tool I learned on. My memories of my youth are colored in a Kodachrome palette. “Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day,” sang Paul Simon.

Maybe that’s why so many of us romanticize our youths? Is it because the visual record of it is so warm, so vibrant?

There was a part of me that wanted to run one more roll through my dad’s Pentax Spotmatic, shoot some photos of my kids, just so there would be some. But I never got to it, the thought of spending $17 on a roll of film just … well, my thrifty yankee side came into play. Sorry, kids …

But I do have one box of it left, a 20 exposure roll of Kodachrome 25, sitting up on a shelf, collecting dust amongst a collection of odd films and old cameras. It expired in 1982 … that one they can’t take away from me.

One last box, never to be shot, never to be processed.

POST SCRIPT: Dwayne’s Photo has produced a commemorative t-shirt to mark the day, and you can order one from their web site.

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