Kodachrome's Challenge to the Universe

If you were a musician and knew this was your last performance, what would you play? Would you make it your most magnificent and heartfelt gig, one for the ages? Or if you were an author writing your last page? Would you make your words blend with the stars up above, leaving your readers a bit stupefied with the poetic mystery of what they just experienced?

As a photographer, I feel a bit like those guys because so many of our usual photographic supplies and tools are being zapped from existence, casualties of the digital insurrection. Including the reality that Kodak discontinued the ever-venerable Kodachrome in 2009. Part of me wants to rally the troops and blast those punks back to last week, leaving the future of photography to us photographers, thank you. Then I realized that I've been teaching digital photography since the mid-90's and helped lead the way with establishing digital photography as an accepted art form when galleries were still rejecting it as a crass pretender. The enemy turned out to be myself. Homer said it best: Doh. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny, a real contender for a Greek tragedy, replete with a self-made paradox. In the end I guess I'd have to agree with Steve McCurry, the famous National Geographic photographer (who's shot thousands of rolls of Kodachrome over the decades) who said change is good.

This leaves two obvious choices. Number one, we can find a quiet place in the forest and ponder its glory and perhaps even heave a heavy sigh or two; maybe even say dang to the heavens, just in case anyone is listening. A hearty glass of fine tequila would be good to accompany this foray. Or even better, get yourself at least one roll of Kodachrome and shoot something fun and maybe even memorable, kind of like what McCurry is doing. Just make sure you get it processed at Dwayne's in Kansas, by December.

My nephew Da-ka-xeen Mehner and I are having an exhibition opening in late September at the C.N. Gorman Museum at UC Davis. We're both shooting Kodachrome in conjunction with our regular work in homage to the film. Kodachrome has above average contrast, extreme fine grain, excellent color accuracy and saturation. Not to mention the most archivally durable film ever made. It's one of those rare films that is good at nearly everything, from great skin tones to the widest variety of landscapes.

Last August, B&H sent me an email requesting a review of my recent Kodachrome purchase and I happily complied. For some reason, they didn't use it. Dang.

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