Monday, June 6, 2011


Proclaimed to have been the largest photographs ever taken, the Kodak Colorama Billboards stood 18 feet high and 60 feet wide looming over Grand Central Station's main concourse. Backlit and needing over a mile of cold-cathode bulbs to illuminate them,  the billboard was changed once every month for nearly 40 years creating a total of 565 Kodak Colorama billboards in existence. They were shot or art directed by the likes of Ansel Adams and Norman Rockwell, conjuring a type of fantasy nostalgia that I think only Americans can conjure.

The power of photography has always been its claim to preserving a visual record of our history. How authentically they represent the true zeigeist, or aesthetic or compulsions of an era are not always how we determine the value of a particular photo.

The Kodak Colorama series must be valued as a record not of a society, but of the aspirations of one. Their eerie perfection projected an almost comical disconnect from the realities of what most Americans experienced. The vast and endless landscapes, interspersed with happy caucasian nuclear families, seem now like ironic parodies of an America that never was. They are the simulated realites, or as Baudrilliard has called them, the simulacra, of America.

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