Hatteberg's People - Grant Steinle

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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On Hatteberg’s People, actually we talk about the decline of Kodachrome, the worlds most commercially successful color film and how that impacts Kansans. You may be surprised! Now, I talked with the man who owns the last Kodachrome processing machine in the world and it is right here in Kansas. And also with a photographer who understood what an important roll that film played in our history.

There it is, a roll of Kodachrome film. All of us took pictures with it, beginning in 1935. But now, it may become extinct.

Gary Brownlee, the president of the Wichita Camera Club, laments the decline of the film days. Holding these old Kodachrome slides to the light to sort, it is a day gone by as digital photography takes over.

“People don’t even know what a slide projector is. Nowadays you look at your pictures on a computer.”

The Eastman Kodak Company sold Kodachrome Film world wide in several still and motion picture formats – with processing labs all over the world. Slides like these of my mother from the ‘50’s – still as vivid as the day it was shot.

“Kodachrome is manufactured differently than all other color films.

In Parsons, Kansas, Dwaynes, the last photo lab in the world to process Kodachrome Film. Grant Steinle is the owner.

“After Kodak decided they wanted to consolidate their facilities throughout the world, it just ended to be more economical for them to subcontract to us, so we ended up being the last lab in the world.”

This is the last Kodachrome film processing machine left in the world right here in Kansas. Dwaynes receives Kodachrome world-wide from those die-hard fans who love the incredible color and the archival storage ability of this once popular film.

“We’re probably doing over a thousand rolls of Kodachrome every day.”

Gary Brownlee still has a slide projector. Like your dad used to pull the shades, put up the screen and then in vivid color, those Kodachrome slides would make us laugh or cry or bring back old memories of shared trips and stories.

“There will be a certain element that will miss it, the artists will miss it, some professionals will miss it. The consumers probably won’t.

‘You know it is kind of exciting to be the last Kodachrome lab out there. It’s interesting to look at the images and see what people are still taking on Kodachrome Film.”

Professionally, Kodachrome was used by many of the great photographers, particularly National Geographic. For example who could forget this great picture of an Afgan girl taken by Photographer Steve McCurry of National Geographic? Shot on Kodachrome, this picture is etched in our collective memory by the strong yet subtle colors that give this picture its haunting presence.

“There have been so many iconic images captured on Kodachrome Film. Kodachrome was the first color film invented by the Eastman Kodak Company. This is the last Kodachrome processor running in the world today.”

But as the old days fade into history, for many photographers, if Kodachome goes away, it’s not just the end of a brand of film…it is the end of a photographic era.

“It just doesn’t seem like that’s right.”

(Tag) There is talk that after 2009, Kodachrome will no longer be supported by Kodak. No one knows that for sure, but now down to only one processing lab, the future doesn’t look good.

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