Dwayne’s Photo, located in Parsons, Kansas, hardly seems like a place where history is made. But that is exactly what happened yesterday when the photo shop processed the final rolls of Kodachrome film, effectively bringing the curtain down on one of the most well known brands in the history of photography.
Kodachrome film was originally introduced by Eastman Kodak back in 1935 and is widely recognized as the first successful color film in history. Over the past 75 years, it has been used by many of the world’s top photographers and has captured numerous iconic images. Kodachrome was well known for its outstanding color reproduction and the ability to be stored nearly indefinitely, which helped to garner its legendary status amongst professionals and amateurs. But the process used to develop the photos shot on the film is a complex one which gave rise to a number of photo labs that specialized in developing those images.
In June of last year, Kodak announced that they were ending production of Kodachrome, citing the rise of digital photography for its demise. The company had stopped processing the film themselves several years back, and years of declining sales saw most Kodachrome labs closed down. At the time of the announcement, Dwayne’s Photo was home to the last processing machine in the world, and earlier this year they announced that that machine would shut down on December 30.
With Kodachrome’s expiration date clearly defined, photographers across the globe sprung into action. Many had stockpiled the film over the years and they now scrambled to use their final rolls before the deadline. Yesterday, dozens of them, from across the U.S. and around the world, descended on Dwayne’s to have those final rolls processed. In the end, last roll of Kodachrome to ever be developed actually belongs to Dwayne’s owner Dwayne Steinle.
When that final roll of Kodachrome slipped through the processing machine yesterday, it truly did mark the end of an era. And while most of us have moved on to easy-to-use digital camera options, which offer instant gratification for a new generation of photographers, it is impossible to understate how important Kodachrome has been to the art of photography over the past 75 years. So the next time you pick up your fancy new digital to capture that perfect shot, take a moment to recognize a bygone era and remember that you’ll need to tweak that image in Photoshop just to try to equal the color captured with Kodachrome.