Kodachrome 64 is dead. It changed my photography career.

Collected images.
June 26 2009 7:20 AM

Homage to Kodachrome 64

They just discontinued the film that changed my photography career.

Click here to see a slide show of photographs shot in Kodachrome.

Kodachrome 64 and I go back to 1976. This faster variety of Kodachrome was then two years old. The first time I used it, I loved it.

Until then I had used High Speed Ektachrome and pushed it to higher speeds so that I could shoot with low light. I believed that I would get to know the world by photographing the lives of residents of urban ghettos.


But with Kodachrome 64, I went from being mainly a photographer of poor people to an urban photographer. The buildings I captured changed so rapidly that I decided to rephotograph them as often as I could. What had until then been background for my images became my main interest. Soon I was photographing from different vantage points to better show the urban fabric. (I became a photographer of public housing, since the poorest urban communities are often those with the tallest projects. ) In my photography, people became smaller and smaller. I was often asked: Why don't you photograph people?

The small barbecue place at 5134 W. Madison St. in Chicago first attracted my attention in 1981 with its stone veneer. Since then it has been one of the first places I visit whenever I'm in the city. It has been a vegetable market, a fish market, a variety of barbecue outlets, and an empty shell. In 1989, 5134 W. Madison got a larger entrance, and in 1994, a window with bars. The same year razor wire was placed on the roof. Ten years later, a picture window was added, and the razor wire was taken down. In 2009, the building added a video camera.

These images of 5134 W. Madison St. in Chicago survive in Kodachrome 64, a slow and long-lasting film. It was discontinued on June 22.

Click here to see a slide show of photographs shot in Kodachrome.

Camilo José Vergara is a 2002 MacArthur fellow whose books include American Ruins and How the Other Half Worships. You can see more of his photos on his Web site and can contact him at camilojosev@gmail.com.



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