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Kodachrome retrospective exhibition

8 years, 11 months ago cars, exhibitions, film, news, photography 0

As noted in the post on 30th August, Kodachrome processing finally ceases on 30th December 2010. To celebrate the end of an era, the Association of Photographers are staging an exhibition of work by AOP members taken on this classic film. I heard this week that two of my images have been selected.

BMW 5 Series, shot on Kodachrome 64 for Car Magazine in 1990

BMW 5 Series, shot on Kodachrome 64 for Car Magazine in 1990

Austin Healey rear badge

One of my last Kodachrome images from 1990 - Austin Healey badge taken for the book, The Original Austin Healey, by Bay View Books.

The exhibition runs from 18th January to 10th February 2011. More information, along with travel details, will be available on the AOP website, though as I write, the announcement has not been published.

Car Photo – a classic magazine from 1985

9 years, 1 month ago cars, People 7
Car Photo Magazine

Car Photo Magazine, with Ferrari Dino 246GT ©Richard Davies

A couple of weeks ago I was handed a copy of Car Photo by my friend and colleague Ian Dawson. A supplement to Car Magazine in 1985,  it was the benchmark of automotive photography at that  time, and certainly influenced the way I worked. As a rooky photographer on What Car? Magazine, with barely three months under my belt, I remember flicking through a copy in my local WH Smith and thinking bloody hell!

Ian was one of the contributing photographers and he kindly searched out his last spare copy, as mine had disappeared after several house moves. What is great about this magazine is that the photographs could easily be published today in any car title – the only thing that gives them away is the style of the car. Unfortunately for Ian, as I unkindly reminded him,  the new cars of 1985 are now classics and could probably slip into the pages of Classic and Sportscar in 2010.

The contributing photographers were: Colin Curwood, Richard Davies, Ian Dawson, Dougie Firth, Mervyn Franklyn,  Martyn Goddard, Graham Harrison and John Mason. The Art Director was Adam Stinson. Some still work with cars and some have moved on. For any car enthusiast seeing a copy for sale on Ebay or wherever, do buy it – it’s well worth a read.

Lotus Esprit Turbo, shot on Kodachrome 64 ©Ian Dawson

Lotus Esprit Turbo, shot on Kodachrome 64 film ©Ian Dawson

The Lotus Esprit shot above was one of the most important for me, despite it being one of the simplest in the magazine. It made me  realize I had to persuade the editor of my magazine that driving 20 minutes down the M3 to a location at a test track near Chobham,  Surrey, would no longer do. Another favourite is the Citroën Visa pictured below – not a particularly exciting car, just a great photo! Both were taken on Kodachrome 64 (see the posting on the demise of Kodachrome).

Citroen Visa

Citroen Visa, shot on Kodachrome 64 ©Ian Dawson

The last shot is by Richard Davies – a Ferrari 250 GTO. The caption made me laugh when I saw it again –  ‘Two useable frames out of 108 exposures shot.’ I remember thinking at the time that shooting 108 frames to fill one page in a magazine was the height of extravagance. But with hindsight, three rolls of Kodachrome seems modest. Once  I was regularly involved in cover shoots  or big group tests requiring lots of action, I would think nothing of shooting four or five times this amount!

Ferrari 250 GTO on Kodachrome 25 - ©Richard Davies

Ferrari 250 GTO on Kodachrome 25 - ©Richard Davies

As an aside, I thought I’d mention a personal project that Richard  has been involved in for several years. He has been photographing  Russian wooden churches in the bleak north of the country,  documenting the efforts to save and restore these important buildings. A world away from Ferrari’s but well worth a look!

Kodachrome – no more!

9 years, 2 months ago cars, film, news, photographic material, photography 0
Austin Healey rear badge

One of my last Kodachrome images - taken in 1990

I’ve recently been reading postings on forums regarding the demise of Kodachrome, a film which has been used by generations of photographers, amateurs and pros alike.  Introduced in 1935, it was available in various forms until 2009, when Kodak announced it would cease production due to a fall in demand. If you are one of the few who have any rolls left, remember you have until 30th December 2010 to get it to Dwayne’s Photos in Parsons, Kansas, the last place still processing this film, when even they will stop.

I shot my first rolls of Kodachrome in 1979 and was amazed at the saturated colour which could be achieved compared to contemporary offerings, such as Ektachrome 64, also from the Kodak stable. At that time, most of my professional work was in black and white and I don’t remember using it for commercial photography until 1988, when I started to contribute to Car Magazine.

Car was the leading automotive magazine of the period, and under the art direction of Adam Stinson, it produced some of the most innovative car photography in Europe and the USA, influencing many magazines worldwide. Adam favoured Kodachrome, so when I was invited to start shooting for Car, I spent many an hour negotiating the Fulham Palace Road during the London rush hour, trying to get to the Kodachrome collection/delivery point in time to meet the evening deadline. At that time, barmy as it may seem, film shot in the UK could only be processed in Paris. I think it was a 24 hour turnaround, and it was always an event opening each of the returned boxes and spreading the frames, in their classic card mounts, over the lightbox.

Ultimately, for me and I suspect for many others, this impractical method of processing was the beginning of Kodachrome’s downfall. As a new generation of films emerged around 1990 which provided equally great colour rendition and saturation, practical alternatives were established. For many Fuji Velvia, still in production today, became the alternative of choice. It was possible get this, and other E6 slide films, processed quickly and easily and in front of an art director in under two hours. Commercially it made sense to move away from Kodachrome – sadly, it no longer fitted into a lot of photographers’ workflows. Then digital came of age!

The last time I used Kodachrome was around 1990, when  I was asked to shoot a series of car books. After the first book, I made several calls to the publisher asking to switch from Kodachrome. He saw the quality of the Velvia test rolls I had sent, and (reluctantly at first) agreed to let me shoot the remaining books on Fuji stock. To this day, I still think this was the right decision!

Despite it being something that I currently wouldn’t have much use for, I’d love to see Kodachrome survive in some form, as it adds to the flavour and mix of the photographic world. Unfortunately the process is so complicated, I doubt it will be viable for anyone to try to take it over.

As a footnote, Polaroid pretty much finished instant film production a couple of years ago – but with the Impossible Project taking over what remained of the production plant, the concept of Polaroid instant film is still with us. (Fuji instant film has been in constant production for many years, but doesn’t have the same following). Polaroid themselves have taken an about-turn and have produced a new camera and instant film, the Polaroid 300 – and have appointed Lady Gaga as their Creative Director, so there may well be hope for analogue devotees!

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