Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Last Roll Of Kodachrome

Talk about pressure! What if YOU were handed the last roll of film ever made and told to go out and shoot pictures with it. What would you take?

OK, Steve McCurry (pictured) wasn't given the last roll of film, but the last roll of Kodachrome ... though in many ways that makes the assignment even tougher, given not only the reputation of the film but also the reputation of the photojournalist who took iconic images with that revered film for decades.

(SEE: "Mama, They Took Our Kodachrome Away!")

Listen to NPR's recent interview with McCurry, to help you appreciate the magnificence of both the artist and his now extinct tool.

The film, known for its rich saturation and archival durability of its slides, was discontinued last year to the dismay of photographers worldwide. But Kodak gave the last roll ever produced to McCurry. He has just processed that coveted roll at Dwayne's Photo Service in Parsons, Kan. — the last remaining location that processes the once-popular slide film.

What's on that landmark roll of film is still under wraps. What is known is that the first and last images are in New York City, McCurry's home base. And between those frames are photographs from India, where McCurry established his career as a master of color photography.

Although he has almost a million images spanning 35 years in his Kodachrome library, he still felt the pressure of this assignment. Every one of the 36 frames on that final roll was precious. "Am I getting the right moment?" he wonders. "Is it in focus? Is the exposure right?"
One advantage of digital cameras is that you can see the image immediately, eliminating the former need to guess at f-stops and bracket shots accordingly. Ironically, McCurry used a separate digital camera to determine the perfect exposure for each Kodachrome shot, removing the guesswork and doubts.

McCurry's final-roll-of-Kodachrome images will be seen for the first time in an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

Now ask yourself: If Kodak had given you that last roll of Kodachrome, how would you have used it?

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