Kodachrome is the name of a color reversal film introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935. It was one of the first successful color materials and was used for both cinematography and still photography.
The Kodachrome process — in which three emulsions, each sensitive to a primary color, are coated on a single film base — was the brainchild of Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes
Emulsion Kodachrome’s red, yellow and blue dye isn’t added until the development process; the film itself is basically black and white. Kodachrome emulsion layers are thinner and less light is scattered upon exposure, meaning that the film could record an image with more sharpness than substantive films. Transparencies made with non-substantive films have an easily-visible relief image on the emulsion side of the film. Kodachrome films have a dynamic range of around 12 stops.
For the first 20 years, anyone developing Kodachrome film had to send it to a Kodak laboratory for processing. In 1954, the Department of Justice declared Kodachrome-processing a monopoly, and the company agreed to allow other finishing plants to develop the film; the price of a roll of film (which previously had the processing cost added into it ) fell by about 43%.
In 1948 the National Geographic Society explored and photographed this area for a story that appeared in the September 1949 issue of National Geographic. They named the area Kodachrome Flat, after the then relatively new brand of Kodak film they used. In 1962 the area was designated a state park. Fearing repercussions from the Kodak film company for using the name Kodachrome, the name was changed to Chimney Rock State Park, but renamed Kodachrome Basin a few years later with Kodak's permission.
Kodachrome's popularity peaked in the 1960s and '70s, when Americans began to catalog every single holiday, family vacation and birthday celebration. Kodachrome II, a faster, more versatile version of the film, came out in 1961, making it even more appealing to the point-and-shoot generation.
In 1973 Paul Simon sang, "Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away“. Kodak was still expanding its Kodachrome line, and it was hard to believe that it would ever disappear.
During the 1980s, easily processed color film from companies like Fuji and Polaroid encroached on Kodachrome's business. People began to find Kodachrome inconvienent. Compared to new technology, Kodachrome was a pain to develop. It required a large processing machine, many different chemicals and over a dozen processing steps. The film would never, ever be able to make the "one-hour photo" deadline that customers began to expect.
Kodak quit the film-processing business in 1988 and slowly began to disengage from film-manufacturing. By 2008 Kodak was producing only one Kodachrome film run a mile-long sheet cut into 20,000 rolls per year. The number of centers able to process it declined. Kodachrome 64 slide film was discontinued on June 22 2009. It was the last type of true Kodachrome available. Kodak donated the last remaining rolls of Kodachrome film to the George Eastman House's photography museum. Only Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas processed the last of Kodak's Kodachrome film. In the end they only developed a few hundred rolls a day. They developed the last roll on December 30 th 2010.
National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry used Kodachrome to capture the haunting green-gray eyes of an Afghan refugee girl in 1985 in what is still the magazine's most enduring cover image. McCurry's photographic career perfectly traces the rise and fall of Kodak film. He shot his iconic Afghan-girl portrait on Kodachrome and returned 17 years later to photograph the same woman with Kodak's easier-to-develop Ektachrome. Now, he relies on digital.