Monday, May 12, 2008

A Dangerous Habit, Now in Kodachrome

Everything is converging on Kodak.

Remember how earlier this year, I was going to take a photo a day for all of 2008? Well. More on that soon. But for now, all you need to know is that I've temporarily substituted learning about photographs for taking them. This has included a whirlwind tour through the history of film photography, courtesy of not just one, but two of my spring courses. I know, right? College. Awesome.

Since the end of the semester is thick in the chilly spring air right now, I've been racing to finish long papers for very fun classes. Topics have included: Matilda and Pippi Longstocking, augmented reality (with a detour through the history of Dungeons & Dragons), and vernacular photographs made with Kodachrome film. And so, in what is quickly becoming a dangerous habit, I am going to post the first two paragraphs of my Kodachrome paper. And then, if I'm lucky, two of you will email me with some interest in reading more. You know the drill! Diana (dot) kimball (at) gmail (dot) com, for all your ephemeral needs.

And here we go:

Stolen Moments: Accident, Authenticity, and Multiple Authorship in the Kodachrome Prints of Guy Stricherz
In the background of a Kodachrome photograph, a stocky brick chimney slouches toward brown, while weathered white clapboard slips toward gray. The lawn—a carpet of short, even grass—is green-black, almost monochromatic. In the foreground, a family stands: a father clutching the wrist of one young boy and the shoulder of another, an adolescent boy smirking pleasantly, and a mother holding the fourth and youngest son against her hip. The young boys are dressed in shades of blue, red, and yellow. Against the muted background, their striped shirts are vivid. The mother’s blouse is solid yellow with black piping. The boys’ blue jeans hum a deep indigo. The house in the background must belong to the family in the foreground. It is 1952. This is a stolen moment (Figure 1).

In a lifetime of photographs, accident will occasionally produce genius. In the words of one curator of vernacular photography, “while not every bungled snapshot is a minor miracle, some seem to tap into a sort of free-floating visual intelligence that runs through the bedrock of the everyday like a vein of gold.” The stolen moment above comes at the end of the photobook for the Americans in Kodachrome project, curated by Guy Stricherz. It is a scene from his own family’s young life, and ostensibly the inspiration for his curatorial ambition. For the project, Stricherz, with the help of his wife Irene Malli, spent seventeen years collecting Kodachrome slides from ordinary American families. These slides, taken between 1945 and 1965, were artifacts of the first color film craze. Color film, though, did not immediately translate to color prints. Prints were so expensive and difficult to make that few even bothered, preferring instead to view the photographs as slide shows in their living rooms. The rich, luminous colors of the Kodachrome process remained, for most families, suspended in the translucent film of slides. Uncovering accidental genius, like panning for gold, would prove an arduous process...

Photograph via.


Daniel said...

Spencer Miles Kimball said...

Dear Big D,

Please send me this paper on pictures.

Brother 1