When Steve McCurry learned that Kodak had decided to discontinue the production of Kodachrome 64 film, he asked them if he could have the very last roll to come out of the factory. They said yes, and only then did McCurry start to ask himself what kind of pictures he should impress on the film for those last 36 shots. He asked Robert DeNiro to pose for him, and he took three pictures of him. Then he left for India, where he took about 15 shots of actors and gurus in Mumbai and Rajastan.
He then went to Istanbul to visit his friend Ari Gulier, the “Turkish Cartier-Bresson”, as McCurry defined him, and then again in the United States in Paron, Kansas, to personally deliver the very last roll for development into the most important Kodak lab. Before delivering the film, there was one last photograph available, and he chose to take a shot of the city cemetery.
His mission was accomplished but not without running some risks, for example when an adamant cop at Mumbai Airport wanted to make sure at all costs his camera wasn’t some sort of explosive device.
The result is a series of simple but beautiful pictures. Kodachrome 64 was truly a great product, to the point that even Paul Simon wrote a poem about it.
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s
a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”
Contrary to what one might think, though, Steve McCurry doesn’t look at film with a sense of nostalgia. It might be more fashionable – he observes – to say that film is better. But actually he does appreciate digital technologies, both for their performance in a dark environment and for their larger capacitiy: he uses a 128gb, with which he’s able to take pictures for two or three days straight, whereas in the past you had to overload yourself with rolls and stop and change every 36 shots.
It sounds like a different era, but this was only 2010.