In 2009 Kodak announced they would discontinue Kodachrome slide film. It was a sad day for a lot of photographers and the end of an era. Pros and amateurs alike had a love affair with the Kodachrome that lasted 75 years. Photographers everywhere stocked up on the remaining rolls of film. One of the most famous images of all time, Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, was photographed on Kodachrome film. McCurry had exposed over 800,000 frames of Kodachrome in four decades, much of that for the National Geographic. At Steve’s request, Kodak gave him the last roll off the production line.
Click on many of these photos for a much larger version.
The last lab on the planet to process Kodachrome was Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons Kansas. Their cut-off date to receive Kodachrome for processing was December 31, 2010. Like a lot of other photographers, the last week in December I sent my last rolls of Kodachrome to Dwayne’s via FedEx to be sure it arrived on time.
McCurry hand delivered his last roll to Dwayne’s after shooting a few last frames around Parsons, taking his last photo in a cemetery for Civil War veterans.
McCurry loves Kodachrome. “I’ve been shooting digital for years,” he insists, “but I don’t think you can make a better photograph under certain conditions than you can with Kodachrome. If you have good light and you’re at a fairly high shutter speed, it’s going to be a brilliant color photograph. It had a great color palette. It wasn’t too garish. Some films are like you’re on a drug or something. Velvia made everything so saturated and wildly over-the-top, too electric. Kodachrome had more poetry in it, a softness, an elegance. With digital photography, you gain many benefits [but] you have to put in post-production. [With Kodachrome,] you take it out of the box and the pictures are already brilliant.”
McCurry has had a life long photographic love affair with India, so it is not surprising he would choose India for many of the photos on his last roll of Kodachrome. .
I have looked all over the internet to find all of the photos in McCurry’s last roll. I found a few of the images scattered around here and there but most sites that had the full set of photos have taken them down. Thank goodness for the Internet Archive that has most of the photos archived online here. If you want to see them, go look now while you still can.
The Last Roll of Kodachrome – Vanity Fair article