The Last Roll of Kodachrome: From the Series Photojournalism at the Crossroads

Photojournalism at the Crossroads is a series from Lightbox that takes a closer look at how photographers are creatively revisiting traditional ways of image making or using the latest digital technology to revitalize the genre and reach a wider audience.

When Steve McCurry heard that Kodak was to discontinue its legendary film, he asked the company if he could get the last roll off the assembly line. “I have 800,000 prints in my archive,” McCurry, the author of a number of iconic National Geographic cover photos, said, “and for 30 years Kodachrome had been my main film. It has informed how I have made pictures practically from Day One.”

Steve McCurry—Magnum Photos

INDIA. 2010. Sculpture studio that produces statues of notable Indian figures and Hindu gods.

“What was so special about it,” says McCurry, “was its archival quality and longevity. Kodachrome retained its color. The color in pictures from the ’50s is as true as when the picture was made. It had a wonderful color palette that interpreted what you saw in a true way. Other films were too vivid, too hyper. Kodachrome saw how my eye saw the scene.

Steve McCurry—Magnum Photos

INDIA. 2010. Shenaz Treasureywala, noted Indian writer and actress.

Asked what he envisioned for the last roll, McCurry says, “I wanted to photograph iconic places and people, places I had worked in. I live in New York, so I shot there. I also went to India, where I had previously worked, to find something equally iconic. The pictures show actors — a tribe of nomads whose way of life was disappearing. Their culture was fading away, just like Kodachrome was going to become part of the past, and there was a connection in that way.”

For more from the series Photojournalism at the Crossroads

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