Kodachrome Rain Dance

An Indigenous Encounter with Kodachrome

Ok ok, digital photography is really cool. I admit it. Heck, I've even helped set up digital photography curriculums at an art school, a university, taught it at a third, and have taught it since before it was accepted as real photography, so I guess I know my digital photo stuff.

BUT. Like I tell my own digital photo students, if you want to learn color, you've got to shoot Kodachrome. Why? Because it was the best color film ever made, period. Just take my word for it for now.

Photography is magical at its core, which is why people have been hypnotized by it since its inception. Photography historians like Beaumont Newhall (I still have copies of correspondence with him from the 70's regarding attending the UNM MFA Photo program), Geoffrey Batchen, Veronica Passalacqua, and even our very own Dr. Henrietta Lidchi and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (with their Visual Currencies, Reflections in Native Photography book) write wonderful and insightful books all about its history, but there is nothing like experiencing it first-hand and looking at it with wonderment and being left with only one word. Magic. Kodachrome is definitely magical. Part of me doesn't really care about the technical information, all I want to do is capture images with some of that magic intact.

Which brings me to my own Kodachrome film that I shot in the Midwest recently. When we came back to Idaho, it was hot as in H-A-W-T-E-R than heck. Like Superman and Kryptonite, Kodachrome has a weakness, which is heat. It makes it lose it's vibrancy and the magic fades into mediocrity, especially after it has been exposed, but not yet processed.

This had me worried, because I needed to get it shipped off to Kansas for processing, via a courier. In the heat, in the back of some delivery truck at 100+ degrees. My only recourse was to ship it overnight to minimize its exposure to heat. I put the exposed film in need of processing on my desk for a few days to think about it. Dang.

At any rate, I shipped the film on Monday, and said my holy smackers with sincerity. What luck! The photo gods had mercy on me and the heat broke; instead of our regular 100º, it is a cool high 70's. Wow! This was a huge deal for me and my film. My film was being shipped in relative coolness instead of the blistering heat, and I am more than thankful.

It means that with any luck, I'll get my film back with the magic intact, but we'll see.

I must confess that I almost did a bit of an improvised rain dance in the shower just before the heat broke. I think that perhaps the creator wasn't that amused and our entire house shook from the lightning. The entire night landscape was lit up for a moment as I went to grab my camera to try and get a shot of it.

In reality, I don't know what to make of all this. It's usually blistering hot right now, the hottest time of year here. I just hope that the film gets back soon, and looks good. In the meantime, not even a thought of rain dances in the shower.

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