Mama Took My Kodachrome Away


It gave us those nice, bright colors. It gave us the greens of summers. But Eastman Kodak discontinued Kodachrome in 2009, and the last roll ever produced was recently shot and processed.



Famous for his 1984 photograph of the "Afghan Girl" featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine, Steve McCurry was granted permission to use the final roll of Kodachrome to take pictures of New York City. The 36 shots taken by McCurry will be on display at the Eastman House in Rochester, New York, where Kodak is based.


Manufactured from 1935 to 2009, Kodachrome was the oldest brand of color film still being produced. Long sought after for its color accuracy and dark-storage longevity, Kodachrome requires complex processing that cannot be done by amateurs. The color transparency film uses a subtractive screenplate method, rather than additive, like Autochrome and Dufaycolor, which had problems with enlargement artifacts and excessive light absorption. Kodachrome has no dye couplers in the emulsion, allowing the emulsion layers to be thinner, resulting in less light scattering and sharper images.


Processing Kodachrome film forms three superimposed negative images, one for each primary color. In a highly complex process, each layer is processed individually, forming dyes that create the final image. Due to the complexity of its processing, Kodachrome sales included processing by designated Kodak laboratories. But a 1954 court case resulted in Kodak giving independent laboratories access to the chemicals needed to process Kodachrome.


A general decline in slide-film use in the 1980s and 1990s, combined with competition from Fuji’s slide films, caused many Kodachrome processing laboratories to close. With fewer labs processing the film, Kodachrome sales declined further still. So in 2009, Kodak discontinued the film and stopped processing it. Dwayne's Photo, an independent facility in Parsons, Kansas, is the only lab left that still processes Kodachrome. Unfortunately, Dwayne's Photo will stop processing Kodachrome at the end of the year. And their supply of Kodachrome film has run out, so don’t ask.

If you've been hoarding a roll or two of Kodachrome in the freezer, you might want to consider shooting it soon and having Dwayne's process it before the end of 2010.

National Geographic documented the journey of the final roll of Kodachrome, and might do a spread of some of the images in spring 2011.


1 Comment

I shot my last 24 exp. roll in late '09.  In spite of its being out of date it was beautiful.  It was a roll of ASA 10 Kodachrome I had in my freezer stored in a lead radiation shield box.  I used a Nikon F with several lenses among which was my favorite GN45 lens.  I have numerous 24 x 36 inch prints made from kchrome slides that date back to the early 50's and I just love them for their detail and color saturation.  There is no substitute for Kodachrome and we will all miss it.  Digital is still in the "Model T" development stage as far as I am concerned.