The last Kodachrome in Toronto: a Torontonian portrait!

[TUESDAY UPDATE: The weather is looking great right now — Kodachrome gives warm colours in sunlight — and temps are expected to be about +1°C at 1p.]

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This idea just came to mind on Sunday night, and the likelihood of it getting circulated about in such short time is pretty slim.  But it’s worth trying anyway.

On Tuesday, December 28th, at 1:00p in Nathan Phillips Square, I’d like to invite everybody reading this to take a few minutes, stand in, and pose for a big Torontonian portrait which will be shot using some of the very last Kodachrome slide film ever to be developed.

As soon as the portrait is shot (it might require a few takes, but there will be enough fresh film on hand for that!), the roll will be sent out directly via FedEx to Parsons, Kansas, at Dwayne’s Photo, to reach their processing lab before their December 30th “high noon” cut-off for developing the last Kodachrome slides.  It is very likely that this portrait will be amongst the last Kodachrome film ever to come from Toronto (edit: if not the last from Canada).

In case you need a quick recap, Kodak’s oldest colour film still in use, Kodachrome, comes to an end this week after 75 years.  It is very much a part of Toronto’s own history, given Kodak Canada’s factory in York’s Mount Dennis-Weston area (which closed about five years ago).  After this week, the last lab equipped to develop Kodachrome will close its “K-14” (Kodachrome chemistry) operations forever.  Eastman Kodak made this announcement 18 months ago, and it has been in the news.

As colour images go, Kodachrome is particularly special because it holds up extremely well over time.  It generally doesn’t fade or turn a horrible yellow or pink.  It renders colours very much the way our brain perceives colour, which helps give it a distinct, lifelike feeling.  It means that a photo shot in 1945 can look like it was taken last summer:

Queen's Park, September 1945, shot in Kodachrome

Queen's Park, September 1945. From City of Toronto Archives: the Ellis Wiley fonds (Fonds 124).

On the other end of 75 years, we have plenty of digital images, but we don’t yet have a way of preserving those images for decades to come.

Someday — and with hope — this Torontonian portrait in Kodachrome will hold its own as a milestone in our city’s history.  What kind of milestone that might be shall be left to those who look back to 2010 with wonderment as fresh faces smiling at them no longer exist.  This Torontonian portrait will far outlast us, our kids, and likely our grandkids.

In the near term, this portrait will make up the end of a 1935–2010 time line.  This will be pieced together over the next couple of years during my graduate research project documenting and analyzing Toronto’s cultural, architectural, and economic history over most of its second century.  Once processed and scanned digitally, this public portrait will be made freely available under a Creative Commons licence.

Torontonians — and even holiday visitors in town this week! — I hope to see you all there!

[Redistribute and pass word along if you can.]

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