Southampton Arts Center has announced their final exhibition of 2016, Colorama, opening Friday, November 11. Organized by the George Eastman Museum and on view through December 31, the show features 36 panoramic prints that were once touted by Kodak as “the world’s largest photographs.”
An opening reception for the public is scheduled for Saturday, November 12 from 4–6 p.m., with refreshments provided by Southampton Social Club.
In 1950, the Eastman Kodak Company installed the first Colorama on the interior east wall of Grand Central Station. These oversized advertisements were 18 feet high and 60 feet long, requiring more than a mile of cold-cathode tubes to light them from behind. A total 565 Colorama photographs would be displayed on this spot over the next 40 years.
As a major corporate and aesthetic undertaking, the production of Coloramas required effort from both Kodak’s marketing and technical staffs, and scores of photographers, including such notables as Ansel Adams, Ernst Haas and Eliot Porter. Until 1990, these illuminated images attempted to reflect and reinforce American values and aspirations while encouraging picture-taking as an essential aspect of leisure, travel, family and social life.
In the decades that evolved from Levittowns and the baby boom to Watts and Woodstock, the pictures offered an almost unchanging vision of idealized and perfect landscapes, villages and families, American power and patriotism, and the decorative sentimentality of babies, puppies and kittens. They marked traditional holidays, conventional views of the faraway, and such uplifting current events as a moonwalk and a royal wedding. And they suggested, with varying degrees of explicitness, that such sights could be defined, secured, memorialized and enjoyed through photography. Today, these images are figures in the landscape of memory.
The Coloramas showed people not only what to photograph but also how to see the world as if looking through a camera lens. They served to manifest and visualize values that were nostalgic, fading and in jeopardy—salvageable only through the time defying alchemy of cameras and film.
See Colorama at the Southampton Arts Center at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. Call 631-283-0967 or visit southamptoncenter.com.