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Kodachrome, oh those last batches...

This past August, Chronicle Books in San Francisco brought out a set of notecards as a follow-up to their popular Polaroid Notes series.  I worked with Chronicle on this set, curating it from the body of images that had been shot as part of the Webster University Kodachrome Project, which I had spearheaded.  (more on that later)




Kodachrome Notes is a handsome set of notecards. The image on the cover of the set was made by Scott Layne and it is what people call a twofer.  Since Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009 and Holga only began in recent years to manufacture a camera that takes 35mm film, there can't be too many photographs out there in the world that were shot with a Holga and on Kodachrome film.  This is one of them.

So what was this project?  It began in a color photography class in May 2010.  I had some very expired Kodachrome to hand out to students, donated by a photographer who had switched to digital and was getting around to cleaning out his freezer.  The students were very excited to have an opportunity to shoot this mythical film which had already been discontinued the previous June.  The idea quickly moved from 'let's shoot this film and see what we have' to 'let's ask the lab (Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas) to hold our film to the final day' to 'the final batches'. Pretty soon there were over sixty Webster photography students and faculty looking for Kodachrome on eBay, the freezers of other photographers and by October when I collected the rolls shot, there were over 110 to send out to Grant Steinle at Dwayne's (Dwayne's son and now running the lab).

On December 30, 2010, a group of us drove out to Parsons to be there for the final batches.  Well, so many rolls of Kodachrome from around the world had arrived in the previous days that although December 30 was the final day for accepting film, the lab continued to process what they had received until the actual dye couplers ran out.  That was January 18, 2011.  I was a bit on the edge of my seat because by this time the project had turned into a book and exhibit and the final content for the book was due asap.  The front end, essays by Arnold Drapkin, Grant Steinle, and me, was already finished and proofed.  We were waiting for the gallery section.  By the time Grant processed and overnighted the slides, we had three days till the book deadline.  But we did it!

Everything was as good as it could be.  A class discussion, a student idea, students and faculty working together to be part of photographic history.  And the icing on the cake, Dwayne Steinle was shooting a roll of Kodachrome on December 30 to be the final roll fed into the processor and he shot some group portaits of us.  So now we hold in our hands mounted slides from the final batches and our faces are on the very final roll of Kodachrome ever processed!


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