Eastman Kodak is retiring Kodachrome this year, as digital photography winds the once-iconic color film into obscurity.
Kodachrome is widely recognized as the world's first commercially successful color film, offered in Kodak's portfolio for the past 74 years. But nowadays, Kodak gets about 70 per cent of revenues from its digital biz. Combined with difficult manufacturing and processing requirements, Kodak says Kodachrome now represents only a small fraction of one per cent of the company's sales of still-picture film.
"It was certainly a difficult decision to retire it, given its rich history," said Mary Jane Hellyar, president of Kodak's Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment group in a statement. "However, the majority of today's photographers have voiced their preference to capture images with newer technology — both film and digital."
American crooner Paul Simon famously praised the 35mm film in his 1973 song, Kodachrome. Simon sang:
"They give us those nice bright colors / They give us the greens of summers / Makes you think of all the worlds a sunny day, oh yeah / I got a Nikon camera / I love to take a photograph / So mamma don't take my Kodachrome away."
Kodachrome has also captured some of the age's most celebrated photographs, such as photographer Steve McCurry's shot of a young refugee Afghan girl with haunting sea-green eyes, which appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic.
Today, there's only one photofinishing lab in the world that processes Kodachrome film: Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas. Kodak says the shop has indicated it will continue to process Kodachrome though 2010.
"This lack of widespread processing availability, as well as the features of newer films introduced by Kodak over the years, has accelerated the decline of demand for Kodachrome Film," Kodak said.
The company estimates current supplies of Kodachrome will last until early this fall at its current sales pace — although that's likely to accelerate given the film's retirement. Kodak said it will donate the last rolls of the film to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York. McCurry will also shoot one of the last rolls and donate the images to the museum.
To celebrate the film's retirement, Kodak has created an online gallery of some of Kodachrome's best shots, available here ®