Fox is making a film about it. Someone paid over £10,000 to get 1,580 rolls of train photos developed before the last of the chemicals were lost forever. Heck, Paul Simon once sang about it. It's fair to say that the photography world is besotted with Kodak's Kodachrome film, but in an interview with Giz UK this film week, Kodak told us they've got better things up their sleeve.
"It was a difficult decision, given its rich history," Lars Fiedler, Kodak's Business & Product Development Manager Film Capture for Kodak in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, told us of the company's decision not to continue producing the chemicals needed to develop the Kodachrome range of films. "At the end of the day, photographers have told us and showed us they’ve moved on to other Kodak films and/or digital. Kodachrome film represented a fraction of one percent of our film sales when we retired it."
Of course, you could argue that total film sales represent a fraction of what they used to be, but as Lomography's President Sally Bibawy argued the other day, people are flocking back (or to) film to learn what true photography means and feels like. Kodak's Fiedler points to the new films the company has introduced in recent years, particularly in the 120, 220 and 4x5 formats, as evidence there's still a roaring trade to be made in film production. "We've always said that as long as people keep buying and using film in sufficient quantities, we'll keep making it," Fiedler said, adding that "one thing we've heard repeatedly from young photographers who are exploring film for the first time, and older photographers who are returning to it, it that there's a look with film that they just can't get from digital. Its a way to differentiate themselves – and the sales of our film portfolio reflect this renaissance of sorts for film."
It was the dwindling use of Kodachrome, and the fact that they've got far-superior films in the range now, which saw Kodak give it the chop. Even Steve McCurry, the photographer who captured one of the most famous portraits in the world, of the young Afghan girl who made the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985, chose a different film when recreating her portrait 17 years later:
“The early part of my career was dominated by Kodachrome, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images. While Kodachrome film was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images. In fact, when I returned to shoot the 'Afghan Girl’ 17 years later, I used Kodak’s E100VS film to create that image, rather than Kodachrome film as with the original.”
There is a certain nostalgic glory to Kodachrome, and indeed the Kodak company, which made their recent financial losses a hard pill to swallow. With the temptation to get back to basics and rediscover the joys of photography -- and with retro filter apps aiding in that fascination -- perhaps Kodak can turn their fortunes around. The world will be a less colourful, highly-detailed place without them; that much is obvious.