Monday, July 25, 2005

“Color slides make you feel like a hero.”

's'funny. As I contemplate the impending death of Kodachrome (and maybe of all 'chrome film...), I’m only now recalling what a huge ‘Ektachrome’ geek I used to be. Back in the years of my young adulthood (the late 70's through the '80s), color prints used to be pretty ferociously expensive, and I could keep costs down by processing my own slides. So I did, several gallons’ worth - probably 100 rolls or more.

Then parenthood happened, and, like, everything else in my life, Everything Changed. As a new, proud parent, you quickly learn that you simply cannot inflict Baby Pictures upon your long-suffering relatives - even the relatives who want to see them - in the form of slides: no, the social contract obligates a parent to pass around snapshots. So I switched over to C-41. And so, for the last 13 years or thereabouts, I’ve shot slides only occasionally. Most dramatically, there are a few rolls of Alice and maybe even Adam shot on 120 roll-film Kodachrome. (But soon I would be so distracted by the trials of "living with autism" that I didn't even notice when Kodak discontinued 120 Kodachrome.)

And while I was shooting print film, the price continued to drop. At some point in there, it became cheaper (and it was always easier) to shoot prints rather than slides.

With slide film now in the final stages of its lifespan, I realize how much I’ve missed it, and how much I will miss it. As Phil Greenspun notes in his review on loupes and light tables called “evaluating photos”:

“Your pictures will mostly look gorgeous because slides can hold at least twice as much contrast as prints. You will pat yourself on the back for being a photographic genius. “

Or, more succinctly, from his review of films and film types:

“Color slides make you feel like a hero.”

And he's right. I find that crappy color prints lower my standards: I stop caring about printing quality, color balance, resolution, about any of the attributes that are usually needed to make a noteworthy photo. Photography becomes "Just grab a point'n'shoot and get some snapshots". Whereas, when I shoot slides, I find that it stiffens my resolve to do good work: I reach for my more serious cameras, my best lenses, I work more carefully, etc.

(Too bad that My Best Work is still so damn mediocre....)

Slide projectors: gone, last year. 120 Kodachrome: gone, years ago. Kodachrome 25: gone. Kodak's own K-14 processing: gone.
Local E-6 machines - Motophoto closed their line last summer (a few weeks after I brought them my Transit chromes).

Right after Fair Lawn closed (Sept. 2004), I dropped a roll of Kodachrome off at Eckerds (because I had no idea where to mail it...). And I had a huge fight with the clerk, who kept asking me "How many prints do you want?" and when I kept insisting that this is slide film, "I don't want ANY prints!", he filled in the special instructions with "do not print" or something - and my roll dutifully came back uncut and unmounted. I had to explain what happened to the manager, and they had to send it back to the lab to be remounted - - sorry sir, no charge. But think of it: in 2004, a kid working in a photo lab did not even recognize the very concept of slide film. (. . . Durn young punk. . . I hope he stays off my lawn, at least.)

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