Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Glory that was Kodachrome: Old Color Photographs from the Shorpy Archive


In today's digital age, there doesn't seem to be any limitations when it comes to color photography. It's become so easy to alter the color and look of your images with tools like Instagram, but over 50 years ago when commercial color photography was just in its infancy, some of the most beautiful images were made without any kind of special filters. That was the glory of Kodachrome, and now these old color photographs are easily viewable courtesy of Shorpy.com.


These outstanding color photographs of the World War II era were made possible through Kodachrome, a color film introduced to the public by Kodak in 1935. Kodachrome was one of the most popular films used for high quality portraiture and photojournalism up until a few years ago, when production was halted due to the dwindling demand of film photography (in favor of digital photography).

The images here were taken under the supervision of the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information which took a visual census of the US from the time of the Great Depression up to the War, and included some notable photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks.  Many of these images are also from the same collection used for the Bound for Glory exhibition featured on this blog a few months ago.


Shorpy.com is a photo blog dedicated to high quality old photographs from the beginnings of photography in the 1850s to the nostalgic golden age of the 1950s. The site is named in honor of Shorpy Higginbotham, a child laborer photographed by the legendary Lewis Hine.

Over the years, the website has grown in terms of the number and quality of its images, which include personal photographs from its members. Although the blog is mostly dedicated to old black-and-white photographs, some more recent color pictures are allowed due to their quality.


While some of these photographs are obviously posed or staged, it that doesn't detract from the beautiful quality of the reproductions; they still offer insightful information into the fashion and technology of the time while still being aesthetically beautiful.

It's unfortunate that these types of images can no longer be emulated, not only because of the change in times, but also because of the discontinuation of Kodachrome. That only makes these pictures even more unique, knowing that they belong to an era that now exists only in print.


There's more glorious old Kodachrome color photographs over at the Shorpy website. They have a gallery dedicated to Large Format Kodachromes, but don't forget to search with the keyword "Kodachrome" to include user-submitted photographs. For hardbound editions, you can try Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43, Kodachrome: The American Invention of Our World, 1939-1959 and Americans in Kodachrome 1945-1965.


15 comments:

Ray Rousell said...

Great photos, love the tank in action!

G said...

fantastic photos. I always associate the second world war with grainy black and white pictures so it's cool to see some in glorious colour

msmariah said...

These pictures are so cool. We typically think of 60 year old photos in black and white. It's great to see them in color. Also, that pilot looks so freaking cool.

The Angry Lurker said...

Beautiful photos before health and safety at work ruined it all!

Dale JaneƩ said...

Wow, i've never heard of Kodachrome, I'm really impressed with the quality of these. Great photos, I'm so used to seeing photos are this time in Black and White, it's really cool to see these

Aaron M. Gipson said...

Color photos from this era lend a certain "dignity" to the human subjects captured within them. I don't know if it's the color scheme or what, but people look more like paintings when photographed with this film.

Filed Under Bass said...

These are wonderful! Its amazing to see some classic colour photography.

D4 said...

Wow, excellent find. Considering the age of these.. just wow

AguiLeon said...

ow this is a old school nice post thank for share

DWei said...

Whoa, you could have told me that these were taken with a digital camera and I would have believed you.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

It give us those nice bright colors.
It give us the greens of summers.
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day.

Bart said...

hell yes, i love tanks.

Geek's Paradise said...

It amazes me how much time people spend these days in post-production trying to mimic the look of these earlier photos. The over-saturation gives them a very cool look. Some great photos here. Thanks!

R.gers said...

That M3 Lee looks like a total beast. A mix between World War 1 era tanks with a sponsoon turret and one on the top.

Some Guy said...

love the recoloured images, so many females got into work during the wars, really help develop female rights.

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