« Photography: Cool-o-rama! Kodak Coloramas! »


One of my favorite museums is The George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester NY. I first visited The George Eastman House on an elementary school field trip. Since then, I have visited dozens of times, participated in photography workshops, attended movie screenings and listened to many famous people (such as Jessica Lange last summer) discuss their art and careers.

I also grew up in the Kodak kingdom of Rochester NY. Nearly every person I knew while I was growing up had some connection with Kodak – be it a relative, friend or classmate who worked in the Kodak factories, a person who modeled for Kodak camera and film testers, or one of the many staff photographers employed by Kodak.

These two touchpoints of nostalgia, combined with my admiration for great advertising, fuels my enthusiasm for the new Kodak Colorama exhibit at the George Eastman House (June 19–October 17). From 1950 to 1990, Kodak Coloramas consistently and creatively promoted Kodak cameras, its film and the concept of “everyday” photography to the travelers passing through New York City’s Grand Central Station. It was a giant of an ad campaign, both literally and figuratively.

Each Colorama was 60 feet wide and 18 feet high. In essence, they were giant snapshots of everyday life. In reality, they were really big rear-lighted transparencies of professionally photographed panoramas that showed a carefully idealized world in fully realized super bright colors. Kodak produced 565 images during the 40+ years of the Colorama campaign, switching them out at Grand Central Station every three to four weeks.

This was advertising on grand scale at a time when ad expenditures were not thought of in terms of cost cutting. Kodak regularly dispatched eight-person Colorama photography teams to all corners of the globe and gave them unlimited budgets to shoot “jaw-dropping vistas.”

The George Eastman House Colorama exhibit celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Colorama and features 36 of the most famous of these magnificent panoramic images. Each has been reduced in size to fit the museum space. But, averaging 6.5 feet in length, the collection is sure to be dramatic.

  • You can learn more about the George Eastman House Colorama exhibit here and here.
  • You can learn more about the history and technical achievements of the Kodak Colorama campaign here.

 Below are two more of my favorite 1950's Colorama images:>

Herb Archer. FAMILY CAMPING, LAKE PLACID NY, July/Aug 1959. © Kodak.

Ralph Amdursky. BROOKLYN BRIDGE NY, May/June 1958. © Kodak.

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