Mama, Why Did You Take My Kodachrome Away?

Industry Perspective

Mama, Why Did You Take My Kodachrome Away?

by Ron Leach

Faced with ever-declining demand in this digital age, Eastman Kodak recently announced it was retiring Kodachrome—it’s oldest film stock—which was long favored by professional and amateur photographers alike for its rich, vibrant colors.

Immortalized by Paul Simon in the 1973 song “Kodachrome,” the world’s first commercially successful color film lost popularity in recent years—representing less than one percent of Kodak’s total sales of still picture film sales. Over it’s 74-year run, Kodachrome was produced in numerous formats, including 35mm, 120, 110, 126, 127, 828 and large format for still cameras, and 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm for motion pictures.

Many of the world’s most memorable images were shot on Kodachrome by hobbyists as well as famous photojournalists, nature and wildlife photographers, landscape artists and others striving for that saturated “Kodachrome look.” Perhaps the world’s most famous home movie, that taken by Abraham Zapruder of the Kennedy assassination was shot using an 8mm reel of Kodachrome.

While complicated to process and problematic to scan, Kodachrome films were beloved because—in the words of Paul Simon—“They give us those nice, bright colors. The give us the green of summers. Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day. . . So Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

The existing retail supply of Kodachrome is expected to run out sometime this fall, so if you love those vibrant colors it’s time to grab a few rolls before mama takes it away for good.