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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Kodachrome

Vintage memories remain in vivid color thanks to digitized slides

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.

— “Kodachrome,” from “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon,” Paul Simon (1973)

_____

In 2015, a technology writer named Benedict Evans predicted that more photographs would be taken that year alone than in the entire history of film photography. Evans estimated that during the 150-year supremacy of the art, between 2.5 trillion and 3.5 trillion photos were taken. By comparison, Apple manager Caron Thor estimated more than 3 trillion photos were taken across its platforms in 2022.

Along those lines, I recently read that a key difference between prior generations and click-happy Gen Z is in the number of photos they take. The content was a clickbait list, and the writer lamented something like, “Whole vacations went undocumented by pictures; birthdays happened with nary a photo.”

While I cannot argue with the premise, the prognosticators and clickbait writer obviously did not know my parents. My mother usually gets blamed for training her daughters to pose at the ready for pictures, but my father, too, was a fan of still shots and movies. I have more than a few boxes in storage — media ranging from Kodachrome slides to reel-to-reel and cassette audio tape, to Super 8mm video tape.

Kodak’s three-color process, Kodachrome, came onto the scene in 1935, and one year later, its 35mm slide was invented. By the 1950s, slide projectors gained popularity, and if you grew up in the 1960s like me, you probably remember family slideshows where everyone gathered to watch carousels of slides.

Photo by Zach Straw

I recently became reacquainted with my parent’s slides taken in 1959 to 1962 when they lived “out West.” I had not seen these slides since I was a child, eating Chef Boyardee pizza on “slideshow nights.” Included with the boxes of slides were “slide viewers,” but I wanted these digitized. I packaged up my slides and sent them to iMemories, which offers a handy app for organizing and sharing your digital photos.

The results have been thrilling. My niece, Jennifer, says of the grandfather she never met, “I never really saw a good pic of your dad. They’ve all been kind of blurry and black and white. It’s funny to see him in color.”

It’s a connection we did not have until these memories were digitized. Through these glimpses, I hope to better understand Jack and Mary Reeder’s time “out West” — in the tiny towns of Melba, Idaho, and Charlo, Montana, where they moved from Iowa to follow their church’s calling to teach on Native American Reservations.

Every year on the last Saturday in February, Wall Street Journal wine editors en- courage readers to drink the wine they may have been saving during the “Open That Bottle Night.” Maybe we can try that. Just as we should drink that wine, let’s digitize our slides.

 

 

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