America in the '30s
May 19, 2010 3:20 PM   Subscribe

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah
[another great find at Postroad's blog (NSFW)]
posted by caddis (21 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
In related news:
"Dec. 31, 2010 is the last day of scheduled processing of Kodachrome at Dwayne’s Photo, the last photo lab in the world to still process the world’s first color slide film."
And ... The Kodochrome Project.

posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on May 19, 2010

*The Kodachrome Project.*
posted by ericb at 3:44 PM on May 19, 2010

No, the past was in black and white! Color hadn't been invented yet!
posted by reductiondesign at 4:09 PM on May 19, 2010

I have to laugh at this guy's captions. He's so sure the African-American and Indians pictured are "suspicious" of the "white photographer", even though, as far as I can see, their expressions are fairly neutral. Being minorities, of course, they have nothing on their mind but hatred of whites. They couldn't be thinking about their toothache, or what to make for dinner, or a new song they heard, or a birthday party they were planning. Good old fashioned liberal!
posted by Faze at 4:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Great photos, thanks caddis and Postroad.

Interesting blog there, Postroad, with its unexpected combination of hawt babes and... other stuff.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:18 PM on May 19, 2010

yes, Postroad has one of the very best linkblogs on the internets, and I of course only read it for the articles.
posted by caddis at 4:19 PM on May 19, 2010

He's so sure the African-American and Indians pictured are "suspicious" of the "white photographer"

Hey, I'm suspicious" of "white photographers", and I am a "white photographer".

Well, anyway, clearly it was the Kodachrome they were suspicious of: they'd have had no problem with a black & white photographer.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 PM on May 19, 2010

Good old fashioned liberal!

Sincere question: what does that mean, in this context?
posted by davejay at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2010

Oh man I love stuff like this.

There's another really excellent collection of vintage American photography over at Square America. They do a pretty good job of keeping the galleries categorized, and they update fairly frequently. If you're into little glimpses of America in the 30's, 40's and 50's this site is great.
posted by tuck_nroll at 5:23 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

| STOP |       Bess Edition
 \ __ /

You cannot access the following Web address:

This site is blocked under the following categories: Pornography
Screw you, Maine School & Library Network. Prudes.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:13 PM on May 19, 2010

(On a different note: Now that Kodachrome's discontinued, is there any other film out there with a similar color response? I shoot a lot of film.)
posted by dunkadunc at 6:19 PM on May 19, 2010

In the little period when I made a stab at professional photography -- in the form of nature photojournalism -- it was a given that if you wanted your photo published you shot it on Kodachrome 25. Not any print film, for God's sake, and you could go to K50 if you had a really good reason and maybe K100 if you were shooting a sporting event.

I had to buy my cameras secondhand and sometimes fix them because I couldn't afford real tools. One of the best lenses I ever had was one I made for myself by mounting a surplus 200 mm f/4 copy lens on the end of a sliding tube (PVC pipes with leather spacers to a T-mount). I still have framed photos I took with that lens. Stable despite its magnification due to its length and weight, and sharp as a scalpel because not optically shortened. Best thing ever for birds at medium distance and insects at arm's length. Instant 1.5:1 macro just by sliding it out woosh. Unfortunately the same lens on a DSLR with a 0.3" square sensor is way too telephoto and impossible to aim.

I never used Kodachrome though because just as I was assembling my gear the first magazines I sold to were beginning to accept Fujichrome 50. Not Fujichrome 100 or god help you 400 but 50 was considered pretty good, maybe not quite as sharp as K25 but I think some of the mags liked its color rendition better. And for years, really all the way from the mid 80's through the late 90's, that was the standard for magazine photography -- K25 or F50. Period. End of story. If you were really hardcore you shot medium format, but you used the same film. I did buy a medium format camera (A Mamiya TLR, I couldn't afford a Hasselblad SLR) and took some great slides with it, but I never could afford a medium format projector to appreciate them. Pics looked great under a loupe though.
posted by localroger at 6:25 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Crap I'm getting old. It was Kodachrome 64, not 50, then 200. Like I said, I never shot Kodachrome myself, just read the spec requirements for four dozen magazines.
posted by localroger at 6:30 PM on May 19, 2010

"He's so sure the African-American and Indians pictured are "suspicious" of the "white photographer", even though, as far as I can see, their expressions are fairly neutral."

I think that your perception of those black people's expression as "neutral" says more about you than it does the person writing the captions. If all minorities treat you with suspicion, of course you're going to think that's normal!
posted by klangklangston at 6:32 PM on May 19, 2010

faze: You're quote-mining. Here's the caption in its entirety:

African Americans faced brutal discrimination in jobs, housing, education, and public
accommodations. It's no wonder that the women here and even the older girl are suspicious of the white photographer.

But you objected to the captions overall. Are you saying that few kids in Indiana went barefoot? That most dances in Oklahoma featured a big band? Odd that you singled out this one caption.
posted by dogrose at 7:16 PM on May 19, 2010

A lot of these photos appear to be from this set from the Library of Congress flickr stream:
posted by tmt at 9:00 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kodachrome went though several variations during the course of its lifetime. One photographer in particular went so far as to stock several hundred thousand dollars worth of 4x5 film in a walk-in freezer when Kodak changed it in the '60s.

In the '80s, when I picked it up, Kodachome 64 was where it was =at=... to the point where Nikon got a bum rap for the way they had their optics handle reds... it wasn't off, it was optimized to see things the way Kodachrome did! Sorta. (Note to Nikon - you don't need to still be doing it.) As a Pentax and then Contax fan, it was still awesome, as it was tack-sharp, saturated without being over saturated, offering depth and character that could not be equaled...

...until Fuji came out with Provia F.

Forget Velvia, Veliva sucks, Provia F and Provia 400 were magic in a little 35mm can. With a lens that emphasized accutance and bokeh (Carl Zeiss and Leica), looking at a photo under a loupe on a light table was like looking at a 3-D image - with one eye!

Kodak let Kodachrome wither and die, as it was expensive to manufacture and process, and Provia was just standard E6 process, overnight or 1-hour at most pro photo labs.

Now, color film is dead. Digital has a looong way to go to match the tonality and lattitude and contrast control of black and white... but the battle for color was actually lost in 1990, when Kodacolor Gold 100 became available in medium format and 4x5, and offered five-stop lattitude and better color representation than any of the chromes. Oh, and the digital thingy happened too, somewhere in there.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:48 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Like I said, I never shot Kodachrome myself,

Now I feel old. Who didn't shoot Kodachrome, in the day? I am thinking that day was a long time ago.
posted by caddis at 12:38 AM on May 20, 2010

There's something about color photographs that humanizes people in the mind. It's easy to look at an old black and white photograph and think "Those people were so different from me!" But looking at very old color photographs, you start to think "Those people weren't so different from me, after all." Amazing, and a great reminder.
posted by Never teh Bride at 6:24 AM on May 20, 2010

Wow ... I've never seen that much color photography from that era. Thanks for the find! The roundhouse shot is fantastic.
posted by Twang at 1:15 AM on May 21, 2010

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