Not long ago fellow photoblogger Andrew Morang shared some images he made on the beaches of Rhode Island in 1976 and 1977. He had been hired to make beach profile surveys, and he brought his Nikon Nikkormat FTn and Leica IIIC along, loaded with Kodachrome 25 or 64. Even though the images he shared were made more than 45 years ago, they look like they were made just the other day. That’s because he made them on Kodachrome!
In the era when film was the only photographic option, I know of no other film that captured images that looked this good, and lasted. Kodachrome’s color may have been a little richer than real life — some color slide films may have had a more natural look. But all other slide films faded with time. Color negative films, especially early ones, tended to have unique looks one to another that today makes the images made on them look like period pieces.
My mother-in-law made hundreds of Kodachrome images from the time she was in college in the late 1940s through about 1960 when her oldest children were small. I shared some of those slides here, here, and here. I shared those images pretty much straight off my flatbed scanner. But check out this image from my mother-in-law’s collection that I freshened up in Photoshop. Click on it to see it at full scan size. The only things that date this image are the 1954 Mercury Monterey two-door sedan into which these fellows are feeding gasoline, and perhaps the style of those fellows’ clothes. Otherwise, this looks like it could have been taken the other day.
My mother-in-law wasn’t using a fancy camera to make her Kodachromes. About half of them are in 35mm film’s 36x24mm size, and the other half are in 828 film’s 40x28mm size. In the box with her Kodachromes was a Kodak Pony 828, which had to be one of the cameras she used to make these slides. It has the same lens as the similar 35mm Kodak Pony 135 camera that I reviewed here. That lens is surprisingly sharp for being as simple of a design as it is, but it’s hardly Leica quality. You’re seeing Kodachrome shine through in this image.
I follow a terrific site called Shorpy, which shares vintage images from the 1850s on, in high definition. Kodachrome shows up a lot on Shorpy — this link takes you to the Kodachrome collection on their site. Enjoy looking back through the second half of the 20th century with color as true to life as was possible then.
To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!