What a fantastic find this morning on Twitter; Photojournalist Steve McCurry shooting the last roll of Kodachrome featuring faces in New York, Istanbul and India. While I will let the video, and McCurry himself, tell the story of this project I will say this is a fitting send off to a film that set the standard for decades and decades. I am ashamed to say that I have never shot a roll of Kodachrome, and I never will. By the time I was getting into photography I was largely using whatever film I could afford. I do feel that I have missed out on something special and as McCurry describes having nearly one million Kodachrome slides in his archive and their durability I wonder about the legacy and staying power of our digital archives. Somehow jpg files on a hard drive or burned to a DVD lack a certain magic. Somewhere in one of my closest is a slide case with a few hundred Kodachrome slides shot by my father on a camera identical to the camera I learned to shoot on. At some point I will have to get organized to digitize these slides before I loose the option and loose that part of my childhood.
Kodachrome isn’t just an element of our popular culture, but it was a mechanism used to record what would become our history, and indeed it did. Author Neil Sheenan suggests that “Photographs are the images of history rescued from the oblivion of mortality” and I agree. I believe that our understanding of the last one hundred years will be shaped by largely what we see in photographs the way the previous one hundred years is largely understood by what was read and perhaps the next one hundred years will in turn be understood through what we watch. Perhaps this National Geographic video is a perfect segue between these mediums.
Have a watch.
Another link I feel is worth a mention came to me from the American Photo Magazine Tumblr Blog featuring their picks for the best photo books of 2012
American Photo has also included a list of E Books with Getty Image’s Year In Focus at the top of the list. This is Getty’s 2012 showcase of highlights in photojournalism, from the Arab Spring to royal weddings and sports events and is available FREE! at iTunes. Definitely worth a look.
It seems impossible to write about the last days of film without at least trying address the impact of digital, but, as I have reminded myself, this isn’t that kind of post. A photographer friend shared this link yesterday on Facebook and it is definitely worth the share here and the words that go with it. Photographer Robert Burley’s Daily Beast Gallery The Last Days of Film is a serene look back at the dismantling of the analogue age of our medium. It is a look into what was once institutional and inseparable from photography, it is a look at the dismantling of what some thought would always be.
There was a time when there was no photography without Kodak, Agfa, Fuji, Ilfrod or the like and I understand how for some, it is impossible to think of photography without them. In 2005 Burley ironically turned the lens of his sheet film camera to the process of obsolescence as studio photographers retired and industry giants wound down production in some cases bringing to the ground with dynamite icons of the industry. In the screen grab above Burley shows the implosion of Kodak buildings in Rochester, New York and it is only one image of the 70 or so images that appear in his book The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era. Look at his photos and read the captions.
Fortunately I think there will always be a niche market for film and the Impossible Project is pretty good evidence of that. I know a lot of photographers with stashes of quietly expiring film in our fridges and on our shelves, in fact, on a shelf above my computer sit two rolls of Ektachrome 100VS and a roll of Tri-X, and there is more stashed in drawers and cupboards around my apartment.
Photographer Ian Ruther’s Video Silver & Light came up in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago and I was deeply amazed by what I saw. Silver & Light showed up at a time when I was lost in thought about the value of digital photography. In truth nearly every frame I have shot professionally has been shot with a digital camera and saved to a hard drive as a collection of ones and zeros, not a strip of negatives or a slide slipped into a sleeve, into a binder and onto a shelf. I still have a loupe and a collection of cameras which will shoot film if I can find the time to make that happen. Recently I loaded a nearly new, yet ten year old Nikon F100 with a roll of Tri-X with the intention of shooting some portraits. I will get around to this but it seems like one of those things on the get around to it list like hanging a head board, fixing the drawer in the kitchen and shampooing the engine bay of the car I drive. I would like to shoot film, I would like to do it with some regularity before I loose the option, I would like to shoot 36 frames each one deliberate and considered knowing each frame shot to test light or composition is one less that will count in the take.
Silver & Light is a reminder that there was once something magical about photography and the way chemistry, metal, glass and light conspired together to capture the reflected light of our world. Ruther is not a throwback, but rather a Historian practicing Alchemy to preserve a medium and reframe how we see photography. I often wonder if modern photography has become too much about the technology and too little about the methodology, that it has become too easy, too cheap. I just listened to a BBC Podcast in which UK Photojournalist Nick Danziger suggested that limiting digital devices, iPhones, iPads, Mobile Phones to one photograph a day could make the world a more interesting and captivating place. I think Ian Ruther’s work is a perfect embodiment of Danziger’s idea.