Americana- photographed, and shrunken- returns to NY.
There was a time when the word Kodak elicited thoughts of giants. Not only was Kodak dominant over the photography industry but their images were seen as larger than life. In the case of Grand Central station, larger-than-life wasn’t a metaphor. From 1950-1990, giant Kodak Coloramas adorned the walls of the New York City transportation hub, below the high vaulted ceilings. Called the “World’s Largest Photographs” these pictures, over 500 in all, represented and ideal American society; families riding happily together in cars, couples walking peacefully in fields of the heartland, young people dancing innocently at a cocktail party, etc. What could be more American; snap-shots, Grand Central Station and Kodak?
Those images have long been taken down, and the days of Kodak exist in the same place as the Norman Rockwellesk nostalgia of those Coloramas. Now, 60 years after they first went up, they return to NYC and Grand Central, only much smaller. An exhibit featuring some of these famous photographs are on display at the New York Transit Museum Annex until November. 36 prints of the original coloramas will be shown at the exhibit.
Originally, they were spliced together using several transparencies and were as large as 60 feet long. The gallery prints will only be two feet by six feet. Most of the original 565 photos were taken by Kodak hired photographers, although some were commissioned to more famous artist like Ansel Adams, and Earnst Haas.
While widely known and admired, these photos were not without controversy. They were, of course, not much more than giant advertisements for Kodak. Until 1969, all of the subjects were of white Americans in un-urban settings. As the civil rights movement raged throughout the 1960’s, especially in New York City, calls for diversity were being felt by both advertisers and lawmakers. It wasn’t until 1969 that Kodak added a picture of a black person into its rotation of Grand Central Station Coloramas. Never-the-less, this collection is a fun look back to a series of photographs than were an everyday prescence to millions of New York commuters. For more info on the exhibit visit MTA-info, and for more history on the coloramas visit this site by Kodak.