Bob Capa Gerry Sheedy Hindenburg and the freedom to be creative
Kodachrome and color
Between 1937 and 1943—the middle of World War II—the world of color had blossomed and there were new developments in the art of camera picture taking. For the most part in the U.S., we have enjoyed the freedom to try what we liked. That freedom works hand in hand with creativity. It is imperative to include authentic pictures from the era to complete the story of WW II in words written by the author Mr. Robert C. Valentine. This dates back to his initial book which was published in 1994—it was months ahead the publication of two other fine WW II books that led the pack demonstrating the power of color photography, There Once Was a War and G.I. Victory.
There existed different processes for film development.
The very first published color photographs of a major news event are thought to have been 7 photos taken by Gerry Sheedy of the Hindenburg disaster during 1937 and reproduced in retrogravure in the NY Sunday Mirror, May 23, 1937. This was about a year after Kodak developed Kodachrome Film, which was officially introduced on April 15, 1936 in 35mm format and that made color movies generally available. The process was difficult, whereby 3 emulsions are coated on a single film base, each one sensitive to a primary color, with over a dozen processing steps, and it all had to be processed at a Kodachrome laboratory.
A rich source of information for the modern novice is found in the Library of Congress digital collections, bundled under the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Photograph Collection, consisting of some 175,000 black-and-white film negatives and transparencies; 965 are of color transparencies that relate to OWI. A sample of the digitized records. This link provides an overview of available websites of interest, by Carl Fleischhauer, co-author of a book about the FSA-OWI photo collection. During the Great Depression it cost about $3.50 a roll which is almost 60 bucks in today's dollars. 1936 was also the year the first television broadcast of an Olympics occurred—the Berlin Olympics, in black-and-white; it used Vladimir Zworykin's TV camera. Hollywood, the normal Joe and Jane, and even the military, have tried to record history with a single camera in color ever since.
Incredibly, Dec. 7, 2012 marked the seventy-first anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The thumbnail pic above is of the Arizona on the Day of Infamy, Dec. 7, 1941. It is in the book A Toast For You and Me, America's Participation, Sacrifice and Victory, vol 2 in real size, a rare photo taken by Captain Hakansson that was censored. The color photograph below is of troops entering a box car in Europe.
The storm of war is told on this site, yet, what kind of world is this if we would fail to mention the world of Kodachrome film and the documentary heritage of America in WW II? Kodachrome, color photography, is graphic. Americans have always been in the forefront of the pioneering and the perfecting of color photography, because we’ve been free to do so.
Captain Hakansson and Dec. 7, 1941
John Ford, Edward Steichen and more
Photographers in the forefront of the Second World War era are Bob Capa, Jack Delano, Eliot Elisofon, Johnny Florea, John Ford, Captain Louis Hayward, Demitri Kessel, Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee (who served in the ATC), Luis Marden, Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks (Life magazine’s first African-American photographer), Joe Rosenthal, Arthur Rothstein, Sergeant Robert T. Sand, Don Senick, Arthur T. Statham, and William Vandivert. Cameramen of the vast U.S. Navy photo collections are Edward Steichen, Wayne Miller, Fenno Jacobs, Barrett Gallagher, and Paul Dorsey. And, these are just a few of the many. In 1941, the year aerosol spray was developed, Kodak introduced Minicolor Prints. They gave the American public the first full color photographic print, and were made from miniature Kodachrome film transparencies. If you compare publications like books and magazines between the Great Depression and the 1940s, you will see a remarkable difference. There is so much color and vibrance.
The camera pioneers of WW II left a natural record of unprecedented size and scope.
Kodacolor Film and Brownie
For the next 20 years after WW II, the medium of color grew even more dramatic, with Kodacolor Film making it possible to fulfill the dream of years, followed by Polaroid and Fujifilm. Anyone could take color snapshots, even with some old camera like a 1925 Brownie; all you had to have was a roll of 620 film in color. All pictures were analog; there was no such thing as digital. But, of course, the older the camera, the tougher it was to get a nice picture. You had to have a steady hand in those pioneering days. [The same thing was true with those 1st digital cameras that crept into the scene over 20 years ago.
One such camera was the MC200 by Toshiba America which saved pictures on a little 2Mb card. Selling at $12,500.] And, if you tried to photograph something moving, in both cases, forget it.
A Brownie gave you a big clear picture. It had a huge negative. Below is an actual Brownie camera. The dimensions are 4 inches high, 5 inches in depth, 3 inches wide. Every time you took a snapshot, you had to roll the film to the next number using the little round steel knob at the bottom. Opposite are samples of film, tall one is 120 similar to 620 film.
If you were in a shooting action situation, it was not easy to photograph with a Brownie. Hence, the 35 mm camera with its dials and different film speed. The 35mm camera format was only introduced in 1926, and 12 years later the first camera with a built-in photoelectric exposure meter was sold by Kodak. In the hands of professionals, like Time-Life’s Eliot Elisofon or Dimitri Kessell, the quality was superb. Unfortunately, in summer of 2009, Kodak announced it was discontinuing Kodachrome film—due to the fact the democratic public likes digital cameras more.
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