|Norm Kerr & George Eastman House. “Centenial of Snapshot Photography”. |
15 Aug 1988. 24 Jun 2012.
If you happened to have been one of the hundreds of millions of people who passed through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal between 1950 and 1990, then perhaps you remember the first time catching sight of the huge illuminated image that loomed above on the station’s great east wall.
That 18 x 60 gargantuan photograph was the creation of Eastman Kodak. These “Coloramas” were advertisements of the sort never before produced. They would become known as “The World’s Largest Photographs”.
The Colorama Puts Kodak Into the Lead in Color Photography
Prior to 1950, color photography was a mere 2 percent of Kodak’s business. Having the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the New York Central Railroad to advertise on the mammoth east balcony of the Grand Central Station offered an unprecedented chance to introduce color photography to an eager post-war audience.
Extreme care was taken in selecting the subject matter of each Colorama. According to the authors of the book, Colorama: The World’s Largest Photographs, “they proffered an almost unchanging vision of landscapes, villages, and families, American power and patriotism, and the decorative sentimentality of babies, puppies, and kittens. They marked traditional holidays, conventional ways of the faraway, and such uplifting events as a moonwalk and a royal wedding; the suggested, with varying degrees of explicitness, that such sights could be defined, secured, memorialized, and enjoyed through the complementary practice of photography.”
During the 40 years Kodak occupied the east balcony space, there were 565 Colorama photographs, meanwhile their family of Kodachrome & Ektachrome color films would surge them to global leader status in the both the amateur and professional photography market.
A Technical Wonder That Left Everyone Smiling
In the ‘City That Never Sleeps’, unveilings of new Colorama images was an opportunity for pageantry and special effects. Presentations meant the chance for the likes of the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, New York Police Force Bagpipe Band, and Dutch diplomatic corps to perform, to just name a few.
Coloramas resonated with nostalgia designed to make everyone that viewed them smile. It took more than a mile of cold-cathode tubes to illuminate the transparencies offering commuters a moment of fresh release from the daily grind involved with work and routine pursuits.
An Apple of Another Type & Digital Imaging Strife
The world’s largest train station in America’s biggest city housing the Kodak Coloramas for nearly one-half of the 20th century, has now given up that space to the world’s largest Apple Store. 21st century image driven computers touting such concepts as ‘retina technology’ now sit for purchase on the east balcony under the shadow of the once iconic space, having warped past and overtaken the former station’s premier resident’s showcase spectacle.
Ironically, the former and current corporate tenants of the New York City’s Grand Central Terminal’s east balcony stage are now currently locked in a bitter legal dispute over patent rights. Kodak, just last week, filed suit against Apple for trying to “delay and derail” its effort to sell a collection of patents related to digital imaging. Unfortunately, the world of high tech does not seem capable of leaving everyone smiling in the way a nostalgic Colorama of The Ozzie and Harriet Nelson family at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii once did! (Colorama #173 by Peter Gales. Appeared in August 1960.)
Learn More About The Kodak Coloramas
Coloramas still has a devout following and you can learn more by following them on Facebook, or visit the online Kodak Colorama Gallery.