Like to see a slide show? A really big slide show?
March 13, 2009 3:51 AM   Subscribe

For 40 years starting in 1950 the huge - 18 x 60 foot - Kodak Coloramas hung in the east balcony of New York's Grand Central Terminal. Photos were enlarged onto successive strips of Ektacolor print film, each 19 inches wide and about 20 feet long, and after processing, 41 such strips were spliced together with transparent tape to make one, giant 18 x 60 foot display transparency.

Kodak decided to build this system for making these massive backlit colour transparencies after initially experimenting with projecting slides on the wall, but finding that the bright lights of the terminal washed out the impact. If you need a teaser, here here and here are a few Colorama sample images.

You may also enjoy the Coloramas that were used to illustrate a story on the American Dream in the current issue of Vanity Fair (interesting in its own right, by the way ...)
posted by woodblock100 (17 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A new one went up every 3~5 weeks ... for forty years. Wonder what happened to them after they were taken down ...?
posted by woodblock100 at 3:52 AM on March 13, 2009

Funny how you get used to things. To this day, Grand Central seems to me to be terribly empty without the Kodak Colorama. (Of course, I miss the Timex clock, too.) In the 1980s, when Grand Central was filled with the homeless and their unforgettable odor, one could reflect on the contrast between the ideal imagery on the Kodak sign, and the grim reality huddled along every wall and corridor below. I would pause every time I entered the station, to admire and appreciate the Colorama its (for then) high definition and rich hues. I was grateful to Kodak for its generosity in giving us this patch of beauty to glow and hover over what was then a dingy, neglected barn, and dark monument to the foolish social policies of the 70s.
posted by Faze at 4:09 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Their Flash detect script doesn't seem to recognize that I have Flash, therefore nothing loads. Now what was it about old school companies not being able to make the transition to digital?
posted by jeremias at 4:30 AM on March 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

doesn't seem to recognize that I have Flash

Here's a link to the inner presentation, skipping the intro screen. Might work better ... (neither link has problems for me, on Firefox or Safari on a Mac ...)
posted by woodblock100 at 5:12 AM on March 13, 2009

Umm ... let me try again with that alternate link.
posted by woodblock100 at 5:16 AM on March 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

(Of course, I miss the Timex clock, too.)

I was going to bemoan the death of this clock, but googling it I seem to be thinking of something else. I don't know what clock you mean, but this is what the internet thinks is the famous GC clock and it seems to still be there.

I'm visualizing a 2 (rather than 4) faced clock on a black post. Perhaps it's just a generic clock and there isn't even one in GC.
posted by DU at 5:22 AM on March 13, 2009

Mods, can someone fix the FPP link to be the one woodblock100 linked to in the comments? Original link tells me I don't have Flash 4 or better and to ask Macromedia for an update. Um... Flash 10 installed, and Macromedia doesn't exist any more. Don't want a borked flash detect script taking away from the post.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:29 AM on March 13, 2009

Oooh I remember these! It was always a designated rendezvous place ("We'll meet up under the Kodak sign!") back when GCT was kind of sketchy and not as safe (some would say "sanitized") as today. These days the place looks totally different with the colorama gone and the ceiling cleaned -- who knew there was that amazing mural up there?

Now all they need to do is remove the overbearing flag that's hanging from the center, but I have no hope that this will happen...
posted by tractorfeed at 6:29 AM on March 13, 2009

It's interesting to note one of the photographers they hired (for the princely sum of $3400 US) was none other than Ansel Adams.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:02 AM on March 13, 2009

Aperture published a beautiful book of these photographs at a more bookshelf friendly scale. Some great reproduction in there.

It's a steal at 10 dollars and though it's a long way off, it's dimensions make it a nice stocking stuffer.
posted by JBennett at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2009

Sorry, that was a sold out link. But the book is available at amazon and strand for a discount.
posted by JBennett at 7:15 AM on March 13, 2009

Perhaps I missed something on the site, but are there any good pictures of these Coloramas inside the station?

Google images wasn't very helpful either.
posted by Hicksu at 9:03 AM on March 13, 2009

Hicksu, there's one (though not very good) on that Ansel Adams link that 1f2frfbf posted just above you.

There's one here, on a book cover. Again, not that hot.
posted by Magnakai at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2009

Also, here's the story of why it came down. ( article.)
posted by Magnakai at 10:59 AM on March 13, 2009

Sorry to triple post, but the nytimes article mentions a Westclox clock: was this the one you were thinking of, Faze and DU?
posted by Magnakai at 11:02 AM on March 13, 2009

The Coloramas were impressive, but what a rape of the architecture they were. When I lived in NYC they were regularly running the DeBergerac 15 babies as they grew up. This YouTube video has several views of the installed Colorama over the years.

The ceiling mural was there, just not very visible in those days.

By the way, the opposite end of GCT had the Oyster Bar.
posted by dhartung at 3:34 PM on March 13, 2009

I guess this is the place to mourn the passing of the AR Listening Booth, too....
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:02 PM on March 15, 2009

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