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The final demise of Kodak’s iconic Kodachrome film (if you don’t know what I mean by film, ask your parents) has been delayed for a little while, but the reprieve is temporary. I read today on Artdaily that the one remaining lab still doingKodachrome, which was scheduled to stop processing it at the end of 2010, has stayed its execution due to demand. I’m certain that some die-hard film shooters kept using it until the bitter end, but I have to wonder if a significant percentage of that demand came from people who would collect a few exposed rolls in their freezer and send some off for processing every three or four years. People like me, for example.

Buh-Bye

I don’t use film much at all these days, but I miss it. I found few things more enjoyable than a light table covered in color slides. I loved shooting black and white and processing it in my bathroom, enjoying the splendid rush of excitement when I finally pulled the film out of its final rinse. I miss the smell of the chemicals and the ritual of pouring in the developer and whacking the tank against the counter top three times to fight off unwanted air bubbles. I miss the pure alchemy of it, the magic.

It’s become monumentally inconvenient to use film these days for most of us, but I’m sure I’ll shoot a roll now and again as long as I can carry a camera. Still, while I will mourn Kodachrome, I won’t miss it since I haven’t used it in decades. It gave me beautiful images, but it’s quirky processing requirements made it a pain in the ass. I could take E-6 to Kmart, but I had to drop Kodachrome in the mail.

One of the most precious rolls of film I’ve ever shot, oddly enough, is a roll of Kodachrome that was processed in 1982, maybe as much as two years after it was exposed. I still remember the day vividly, frost and low, gray clouds, the river, my dog, and me.  Last weekend, reading about the loss of the last of the Kodachrome labs, I found those slides again, threw them on the my tiny light table four at a time, and remembered that day and who I was then, 30 years ago. Then I wrote the final chapter of a book I’ve been working on. It seemed especially fitting because it really showed the roundness and connectivity of life, even a pretty ordinary one.

You’re going to have to wait awhile for the book. I know how it ends, and I know how it begins, but there’s a little more work to be done on the words in the middle.

RXM

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