Kodak retires 'film that captured youth of Baby Boomers'

kodachromeAs the Paul Simon song goes, "Mamma don't take my Kodachrome away..." But Kodak is doing it anyway, retiring its iconic Kodachrome color film, effective immediately.

I shoot film. (Much to the shock and chagrin of friends and casual acquaintances and family members who see the receipts for processing.) And a few months ago, I was shopping for my favorite, Kodak Portra VC.

I went to photo lab after photo lab, finding only one roll of 100-speed film at a Wolf's Camera that was going out of business; and nothing at my regular haunt, Citizen's Photo. Are they retiring my film? I wondered, panicky.

Finally at a huge camera store I spied a totally empty film shelf, but for a five-pack of expired portrait film. Bingo! I rushed home to make sure it was still available at B&H Photo Video, the New York-based photo store of record. Thank the gods of photography, it was still being produced.vanishing series
But for fans of Kodak's famous first commercially-successful color film, introduced in 1935, the hunt will now begin in earnest. Kodak is retiring Kodachrome, saying it's too complex and expensive to produce. Other films -- such as my fave, Kodak Portra, and commercial heavyweights Kodak Max and Kodak Gold -- now account for greater than 99% of Kodak's still-picture films. Due to its complexity, only one commercial lab in the world, Dwayne's Photo, in Parsons, Kan., still processes it.

The lab, which has committed to continue processing the film through 2010, has a sad message on its homepage, saying how sorry the lab's owners are to see it go. "Kodachrome was truly an icon of the 20th century and has certainly been a very important part of Dwayne's business for many years. Once it's gone, nothing will ever capture "those nice bright colors" in quite the same way," they write, referring to the Paul Simon song "Kodachrome."

Kodak will stop producing the film, which was only made at one plant, immediately and expects retail stocks will last through the fall, unless fans stockpile. As for me: I'm headed to buy a roll or two, so I can capture a bit of my film heritage before it, too, is gone.

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