Thursday, March 1, 2012

Full Color Depression

With the loss of many types of film to the dustbin of history, there are certain things that endure about some of these photographic emulsions that are gone. Not the least of which is that Kodachrome in all its incarnations was one of the finest, most detailed colour films ever made. The development process was complex and based on a subtractive development process (the mixing of paints, dyes, inks and natural colorants to create a full range of color, each caused by absorbing some wavelengths of light  and reflecting the others). Sounds complex, mostly its just beautiful to look at. The fact that such complex colour film existed in 1930's even more amazing. A show at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies showcases this film at a pivotal point in American history.

Commisioned by the Library of Congress’s Farm Security Administration, photographers like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and others, took some of the most indelible images of the Great Depression. Some  images were taken using a new film called Kodachrome. Because they had to be processed by Kodak the photographers of these images never got to see them. These photographs were rediscovered by a student researcher doing a dissertation in 1978 in the Library of Congress Archives.

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