These two items just have to go together.
First of all, as you may have heard, Eastman Kodak turned over the ceremonial last roll of Kodachrome ever produced to National Geographic ace Steve McCurry to expose, and he went back to South Asia to do it. "Oh my god, it was crazy," he says—speaking for every photographer who ever had to get the shot with limited film—adding that there was only one exposure he was "a little bit off on." Even though he's exposed millions of frames of the stuff, he says the pressure was "nerve-wracking."
There's a short article about the Last Roll on NPR, along with a 4+ minute audio interview with Steve. (That's Steve's favorite shot of his own at right, according to the interview. It was shot in 1984; the results of the Last Roll shoot will be revealed in a National Geographic television special to be aired next spring.)
I know we've done a lot about the end of Kodachrome, but seldom are such significant and long-lived eras capped so neatly. And if you film virgins are rolling your eyes, consider this line from the article: "...he used a digital camera to hone in on the perfect exposure. 'To have that reinforcement, to be able to see that on a two-dimensional screen...it was a big help.'"
My quick pick of a few truly great books that we've recommended in the past of all or mostly Kodachrome photographs:
I'm going to guess that another great favorite of mine, Ralph Gibson's L'Histoire de France, was also shot on Kodachrome, but I can't find any confirmation of that in the book. That one's long out of print and genuinely rare, though, so no matter.
And now I'd better leave well enough alone, because I know "Kodachrome books" are going to be occurring to my brain for the rest of today.
Writing technological history
Second, related item: Robert L. Shanebook, a retired manufacturing manager and Worldwide Product-Line Manager for Kodak Professional Films, is self-publishing an exhaustive insider's account of how film is made. The book, called Making KODAK Film, is set for release in less than two weeks.
Some might say this is becoming irrelevant, but I firmly believe the opposite. First of all, I think everyone should write memoirs, leaving a testament to what they know and their experiences. But in a more practical sense, what better time to survey the knowledge of current and retired Kodak workers and set down a thorough account of how it was done? This will be the stuff of technological history.
Not for everybody, I'm sure, but if your interests run to photo-tech this could quite possibly prove fascinating.
For more information, go to the book page for Making KODAK Film.
(Thanks to David Dyer-Bennet, Mark Roberts, and several others)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by latent_image: "I'm absolutely certain Gibson's L'Histoire de France was shot on Kodachrome 64 Pro. Michelle Bogre interviewed Gibson for an article about the book that appeared in the May 1991 issue of Camera & Darkroom. (I cannot tell you how much I regretted the cessation of publication of that magazine in 1995. It was just getting really good.) I also published a couple of books shot on Kodachrome 64 (amateur version bought at discount from local stores as the rolls were going out of date) during the same period. My books weren't as notable, but I'm proud of them anyway, and the look of Kodachrome 64 is integral to their character."
Featured Comment by Semilog: "Another terrific book shot entirely in Kodachrome: William Albert Allard: The Photographic Essay."
Mike replies: Good one. And let's not forget his Vanishing Breed: Photographs of the Cowboy and the West, either. That's a fine book with some famous pictures in it.