Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kodachrome. It Gives Us Those Nice Bright Colors...

Anyone who has ever seen a Kodachrome slide knows that they feature a wonderful, deep and contrasty color palette. They also know that after a number of years, they begin to fade into oblivion -- even when stored in a cool, dark place.

If you're not familiar with the beauty that was Kodachrome, check out a photo slide show on The New York Times web site called "Poverty's Palette." It features photos from a book called "Bound for Glory," which is a collection of Farm Security Administration (FSA) photos from the late 1930s to the 1940s.

What's so unusual about the book is that it features color photos. Most of you are probably familiar with the great black & white FSA work from that period. But the FSA photographers also shot in color, using Kodachrome -- which was new at the time.

I found out about the slide show and the book from a short article on the Rob Galbraith Digital Photography Insights web site. Galbraith's site is one of the better digital imaging sites out there, with lots of good information, news and informative (and generally unbiased) reviews.

According to the article on the Galbraith web site:

The New York Times has posted a slideshow of very early color photographs taken from a newly published photo book called Bound For Glory.

There's only one problem -- the book was published in May, 2004 and the slide show on the Times web site was posted the same month in 2004.

I wonder how something like this made it onto the Galbraith web site at all. Was it sitting around for a year-and-a-half waiting to be published? I doubt it. But why didn't any notice that the story was more than a year old? One clue is the URL of the slide show on the Times web site -- it clearly says "slideshow/2004/05/07/."

Mistakes like this are rare on the Galbraith web site (I wish I could say that for some other digital-oriented web sites). But this one defies all logic.

Still, the slide show is worthy of a look. And the book is a good one to have in the library. Even if you came to it late (like I did), it's worth your time.

But beware. If you are feeling nostalgic about Kodachrome and mourn the death of Kodachrome 25, this will only make you feel worse.

UPDATE 12-15-05: I e-mailed Rob Galbraith about the article on his web site and he acknowledged that the article relates to a 2004 slide show on The Times web site. Galbraith has corrected the article to reflect this.

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