Digital shuts down Kodachrome

It may be being embraced by amateur and professional photographers, but the digital revolution has retired their industry’s first commercially successful colour film.

Kodachrome, the film of choice for family slide shows, was officially consigned to history yesterday, as its maker announced it would be ending its run after 74 years.

Hinting it had almost no choice but to respond to its customers, the Eastman Kodak Company said photographers had all but deserted the film on sight of digital imaging.

Alongside negative film, digital has kept hurting Kodachrome, to the extent that it now accounts for less than one per cent of Kodak’s total sales of still-picture films.

Even Steve McCurry, a photographer synonymous with the film, said he has “moved on” to digital since using it for his arresting portrait of an Afghan refugee in 1985.

In fact, when he returned to shoot the ‘Afghan Girl,’ years after National Geographic published her haunting gaze on its cover, he decided not to use Kodachrome.

Unfortunately for Baby Boomers, who flocked to the film irregardless of their expertise, Kodak president Mary Jane Hellyar said that Mr McCurry was not the exception.

“It was certainly a difficult decision to retire it, given its rich history. However, the majority of today's photographers have voiced their preference to capture images with newer technology.”

The company added that for being a complex film to manufacture, and an even more challenging film to process, the tailing off in demand for Kodachrome had accelerated.

Yet seeming aware that all film icons deserve recognition, even after they retire, Kodak will be donating the last rolls of the film to the world’s largest collection of camera items as a tribute.

In addition to its submission to the George Eastman House photography museum, the firm has also created a gallery of Kodachrome’s best moments and most famous results.

Production of Kodachrome, which was used to shoot the famous 8mm reel of President John Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, will cease later this year.

Editorial image courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker



24th June 2009

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