23 June 2009

So Long, Kodachrome

Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp
near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984. Photograph © Steve McCurry.

I rarely comment on technical aspects of photography, since I don't know much about them and there are lots of other places to read about such things. But this story also has local resonance in Rochester, where I live and work. Kodachrome is no more. You can find the story here and here and here among other places. As the story in The Guardian notes, one of the most famous pictures in contemporary photography - Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl" (1985) - was made with Kodachrome. What is interesting about that photo, however, is less how it was made than the uses to which it subsequently has been put. In that regard I highly recommend the essay "Cover to Cover: The Life Cycle of an Image in Contemporary Visual Culture" by Holly Edwards. You can find it in the terrific book she co-edited - Beautiful Suffering ~ Photography & the Traffic in Pain. And, of course, our current path in Afghanistan may well provide McCurry's image with renewed relevance.

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