I had a nice note yesterday from Nathan Benn, whose photographs and forthcoming book we discussed in the post titled "The Color Disease":
Nathan Benn here. I am overwhelmed by the response to Matt McCann's story on the New York Times Lens Blog about Kodachrome Memory. I was literally brought to tears by the generosity and spirit of some of the comments. I started redacting my archive in 2003, and I was doubtful whether anybody today would find pleasure in looking at the pictures. The comments on the NYT Lens Blog and The Online Photographer are a very happy surprise. Thank you.
There are several interesting points or questions in the blog comments to which I intend to respond. But for now, I'd like to comment on just a couple of items. Kodachrome II was the most beautiful color film I ever used. Not the most accurate. Kodachrome 25, the replacement, was introduced in 1974 and colors were more accurate. Neither did green well, but great red, yellow and blue! KII was warmer and that often worked well, especially in "magic hour" light. My friend and National Geographic Society (NGS) colleague William Albert Allard was the greatest master of KII and the magic hour…I'm a piker next to Bill.
There is a fascinating book about making Kodachrome by Robert Shanebrook, who was the one of the guys in Rochester who made the stuff. It is called Making Kodak Film, and is out of print. But Bob is still offering it at his website.
A little back story on my image of the woman on the steps, "New Haven, Vt. 1973." I was shooting a "state story" on Vermont for National Geographic magazine. I was in New Haven to photograph an annual workshop of writers. I was there about three days, and didn't make a single frame of the writers that was worth a damn. Somebody told me about a "hippie commune" nearby called Lorien Farm. I wandered in a couple of times, following around the young and earnest farmers who shared the old farm and lived together. The woman on the step had just emerged from the kitchen, waiting for the commune members to come to dinner. I was really focusing on a young man leading a horse and wagon into the nearby barn. I turned and saw the woman, liked the light, made a little effort to frame her between the leaves. We never spoke. She was standing on those steps for maybe 30 seconds and I think I have four frames. Her hands and legs are positioned effectively as you see them in only one frame.
The image never made it to the layout room. Years later it was one of my three images in the NGS Odyssey show and book. That was first publication…I shot it in 1973 but it wasn't really seen until 1988. Kodachrome II with an 85mm lens on a Nikon F. (Mostly I used Leica M's). The original transparency is lost. Thankfully, National Geographic made a hi-res drum scan for the Odyssey show and it prints quite nicely.
A word about the color you saw in the Lens Blog. I don't know why most images there are so garishly saturated. There was some error in making the JPEGs, and it doesn't matter now how that happened. The few images on my site kodachromememory.com are much closer to my intention. However, my targets are the pages of the book and my fine art prints on Epson Hot Press Bright. The reflective versions are more subtle and I hope you will approve.
Thank you for your attention,
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