Lancaster Station

Eastbound, Lancaster Station (B. Leech, May 2009)

As you may have heard, Kodak recently announced that its signature Kodachrome slide film will be discontinued at the end of the summer, a few months shy of its 75th anniversary.  While most people will forever associate Kodachrome with that Paul Simon song, any fan of architecture, photography, or urban history should be equally familiar with the work of another man– Charles W. Cushman (1896-1972).  Cushman was a zealous amateur photographer and globetrotter in the early days of Kodachrome, and his life’s work (available online here through the benevolence of the Indiana University Archives) is testament to Kodachrome film’s visceral, almost alchemical ability to capture the colors, textures, and details of the built environment.

Harpers Ferry, WV

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (1940)

New Orleans, Louisiana (1941)

New Orleans, Louisiana (1941)

New York City, 1942

New York City (1942)

Chicago, Illinois (1946)

Chicago, Illinois (1946)

It is our loss that Cushman never passed through Lancaster– the closest he came, it seems, was Harrisburg in 1941.  But the world he photographed– the dynamism of everyday life amid the forthright patina of weathered cities– still surrounds us here.  At the twilight of the Kodachrome age, there is still time to document the city in a way that Cushman might have done.

To eulogize the passing of Kodachrome, Lancaster Building Conservancy is calling all interested photographers to participate in the First (and Last) Annual Lancaster Kodachrome Campaign.  Dust off your film camera, pick up a few rolls of Kodachrome, and take to the streets.  The Campaign will culminate in the fall with an exhibit of your best images, along with any historic Kodachrome slides we can dig up (if you have any you’d like to share, please contact  Stay tuned for submission details and event info.  Kodachrome processing is notoriously slow, so there will be plenty of time to hammer out the details.