July 1, 2009

Kodachrome Culture American Tourist in Europe

"Kodachrome Culture, The American Tourist in Europe," a new photography exhibit displaying more than 100 photos from 21 countries across Europe, will go on display at the National Geographic Museum since June 25 to Sept. 7, 2009. The bold 1950s and 1960s Kodachrome color photographs documented an era of peacetime travel and helped shape National Geographic's tradition of photographic excellence by offering a fresh look at distant places. During the rebuilding effort of the post-World War II era, higher wages and disposable income afforded many Americans a new opportunity to travel. The growing economy and advances in air travel fostered a budding interest in touring the world, particularly Europe. During this decade, National Geographic photographers used Kodak's revolutionary Kodachrome color film to bring its readers closer to the places they longed to visit. "Kodachrome Culture" will take visitors on a vicarious vacation to the streets of Britain, the fjords of Scandinavia, the cliffs of Greece and other European locales. Culled from the National Geographic archives, the images showcase the work of more than 35 legendary photographers — including Luis Marden, Volkmar Wentzel, Thomas Abercrombie, James Blair and Winfield Parks — and revisit a photographic medium that changed the way we document the world. National Geographic pioneered the use of Kodachrome film in the late 1930s and was among the first to recognize its advantages. The film produced a dye image without the grain found in other color processes, and the photographs could be enlarged without loss of detail. The film was also faster. Instead of requiring a tripod, color shots taken with a compact 35mm camera could be spontaneously composed. By the time American tourism was taking off in the 1950s, National Geographic photographers were adept at using Kodachrome. The images helped National Geographic stand out from other magazines still publishing in black-and-white. Eventually Kodachrome became the most widely used color film in the United States. The National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

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