Daily Picture Show

Colorama! 'The World's Largest Photographs' Are Back

In 1950, the acclaimed fashion photographer Edward Steichen sent Kodak a telegram from Grand Central Terminal in New York: EVERYONE IN GRAND CENTRAL AGOG AND SMILING. ALL JUST FEELING GOOD.

  • Young couple and tulips, Sterling Forest Gardens, Tuxedo, N.Y. Displayed 1964
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    Young couple and tulips, Sterling Forest Gardens, Tuxedo, N.Y. Displayed 1964
    Don Marvin/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Cowbowys in Grand Tetons, Grand Tetons, Wyoming. Displayed 1964
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    Cowbowys in Grand Tetons, Grand Tetons, Wyoming. Displayed 1964
    H. Archer and J. Hood/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Portuguese Fishing Village, Nazare, Portugal. Displayed 1965
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    Portuguese Fishing Village, Nazare, Portugal. Displayed 1965
    Neil Montanus/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Family in convertible, Texas. Displayed 1968
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    Family in convertible, Texas. Displayed 1968
    Jim Pond/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Pumpkins for sale at roadside stand, Vermont. Displayed 1971
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    Pumpkins for sale at roadside stand, Vermont. Displayed 1971
    Herb Archer/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Snowmobile pulling 9 sleds, Francestown, N.H. Displayed 1969
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    Snowmobile pulling 9 sleds, Francestown, N.H. Displayed 1969
    Ozzie Sweet/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Swimming pool, Rochester, N.Y. Displayed 1960
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    Swimming pool, Rochester, N.Y. Displayed 1960
    Charlie Baker/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Displayed 1964
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    Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Displayed 1964
    Norm Kerr/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Teenagers on bikes at beach, Monterey Peninsula, California. Displayed 1968
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    Teenagers on bikes at beach, Monterey Peninsula, California. Displayed 1968
    Peter Gates/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • San Diego Zoo, San Diego. Displayed 1968
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    San Diego Zoo, San Diego. Displayed 1968
    Peter Gales/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Waterskiers, Cypress Gardens, Florida. Displayed 1968
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    Waterskiers, Cypress Gardens, Florida. Displayed 1968
    Hank Mayer/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Discotheque. Displayed 1967
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    Discotheque. Displayed 1967
    Neil Montanus/Courtesy of George Eastman House
  • Mountain bikers, Olympic National Park and Strait of San Juan de Fuca, Washington. Displayed 1964
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    Mountain bikers, Olympic National Park and Strait of San Juan de Fuca, Washington. Displayed 1964
    Bob and Ira Spring/Courtesy of George Eastman House

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It was probably the first time many of them had seen a Colorama transparency on display — and at a whopping, glowing 18 feet high and 60 feet wide, it was indeed a sight to behold. Kodak introduced these phantasmagoric ads in the 1950s, and over the course of 40 years displayed 565 of them at Grand Central. Backlit with more than a mile of tubing, the colorful panoramas often showed impossibly happy people photographing beautiful scenes — reinforcing the idea that travelers should document the fleeting moments of life (with a Kodak camera, of course).

Grand Central Terminal i i

hide captionView of a Colorama on display in Grand Central Terminal

Courtesy of George Eastman House
Grand Central Terminal

View of a Colorama on display in Grand Central Terminal

Courtesy of George Eastman House

For years the Colorama was a visual mainstay in New York's train station, and although many viewers lamented its discontinuation in 1990, they can now rejoice in its return. Just in time for the Colorama's 60th anniversary, Kodak donated its collection of Colorama materials to George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y. And an aptly titled exhibition, Colorama, is on display at the museum through October, at which point it will go on tour.

Colorama by Ansel Adams i i

hide captionHarvesting a wheat field, Pendleton, Ore. Displayed 1961

Ansel Adams/Courtesy of George Eastman House
Colorama by Ansel Adams

Harvesting a wheat field, Pendleton, Ore. Displayed 1961

Ansel Adams/Courtesy of George Eastman House

Touted by Kodak as "the world's largest photographs," the panoramic prints involved a remarkably complex technical process. Each print required a task force of Kodak experts — with an occasional guest director like Ansel Adams (see above) or Norman Rockwell. A variety of large format cameras were used throughout the years and, according to Eastman House's news release, "in early years the wet 20-foot transparencies were dried overnight in the swimming pool at Kodak's employee recreation center."

The exhibition celebrates the Colorama's visual power, and pays homage to a process that required craft as much as technology. In a sense, the exhibition's nostalgic tone is in perfect keeping with Kodak's early advertisements. Are you agog and smiling yet?

Learn more about the Colorama process on Kodak's website.

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