The BlogTO interview, unedited: “Are you a photographer yourself?”

[First in a series. Questions by BlogTO editor Derek Flack for “The Kodachrome Toronto archive” story, published 25 March 2011.]

Are you a photographer yourself?

‘‘Painting the American insignia on airplane wings is a job that Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, does with precision and patriotic zeal. Mrs. McElroy is a civil service employee at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Her husband is a flight instructor

Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, August 1942
[photo: Howard R. Hollem, U.S. Library of Congress]

Yes, I’m a film photographer. I don’t own a DSLR. My dad was a casual photographer and sometimes showed us slides from past vacations, but I think I must have been about ten when that annual ritual sort of fizzled. In hindsight, he said recently that only a minority of those slides were made using Kodachrome.

I bought my first camera in 1997. I asked the local camera shop about Kodachrome for colour reversal (slide) film, since I wasn’t really interested in colour negative film. The men behind the counter shooed me away from Kodachrome, arguing it was “too hard to use,” “more expensive,” “unforgiving if your exposure is off,” “takes over a week to get it processed,” bla-bla-blah. They basically made lame excuses, and at the time I sort of believed them. But they never said why Kodachrome had managed to remain on sale and maintain loyal followings for decades. They probably wanted to sell Fujichrome and Ektachrome film instead, because that was what was being promoted by the manufacturers. Those dudes may have been technically correct, but they underestimated my willingness to take on a challenge. It just took a while, that’s all.

I was away from photography for a couple of years, and it wasn’t until 2008 when I bought a few rolls online. I took that plunge then because it was possible to finally see comparisons online (i.e., Flickr) of Kodachrome against other films or digital imaging. Its reds are punchy and detailed, as are blues. Yellows, like that seen below, are more subdued, but they appear more the way the brain uses the eyes to interpret colour. Greens and purples? Flat and not so great. But blacks and whites are simply incredible. And subject textures are captured like nothing else I’ve seen.

More to come.

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