Imagine the activity at Dwayne’s Photo today. At noon, the business — housed in an unassuming gray warehouse-like building in the Kansas town of Parsons — will stop accepting Kodachrome for developing.
After that, pau.
Anyone who has a roll with shots of an Alaska cruise vacation stashed in the household’s junk drawer will have to rely on memory instead of visible images of the experience.
Dwayne’s is the last place on the planet that has the capability and necessary chemicals to process the film Kodak introduced in 1935 and discontinued in 2009.
As with typewriters, dial phones and rabbit ears, technology has nudged Kodachrome into history.
Digital cameras have undone the boundaries of filmed photography.
With storage for thousands of electronic images, there’s no more counting shots left on a roll. With instant viewing, the picture of Uncle Morris with half-closed eyes can be deleted and retaken until he’s got his twinkle just right.
If ease and abundance can depreciate a photo’s special quality — just as diamonds would be held of little value if they were as common as pea gravel — to ignore digital’s merits would be irrational.
Pictures can be shared effortlessly; simply download and e-mail. No need to get the double-print deal at Longs so a set from the school trumpet concert can be snail-mailed to grandma and grandpa.
Cell phones eliminate even the need for a device solely dedicated to photography.
Just as digital cameras have vastly altered photography, back in 1935, Kodachrome was also seen as revolutionary.
While the film captured an image, a chemistry of dyes in the developing process expressed colors. Kodachrome produced pictures, as the Paul Simon song goes, with "those nice bright colors," "the greens of summers" that make "you think all the world’s a sunny day."
That sunny-day facet is what comes to mind as the new year approaches. So many events of 2010 were made to appear "worse in black and white," as the Simon song notes.
I suspect there is a longing for an America with nice bright colors of days past that Simon’s song recognizes as unreal and that nostalgia distorts.
But there was a better time when conflict didn’t overwhelm us, when the nation’s sustenance came from being the united states rather than a loose collection of interests jealous of another’s good fortune.
Among the many professional photographers lamenting the passing of Kodachrome is Pat Willard, whose film prints are part of a California exhibit. The characteristic he appreciated most about the Kodachrome was that the color was balanced.
That balance allowed him to capture with artistry and in context a remarkable picture of a singular moment in time, allowed a harmony in purpose and in design. A similar equilibrium sensitive to the light and chemistry of common experiences would develop an image worthy of a new year celebration.
Cynthia Oi can be reached at email@example.com.