I shot my last two rolls of Kodachrome at the Southern Bracket Racing Association Finals, last October. At the time, I didn't actually think that they were going to be the last. Sure, I knew that Dwayne's Photo, the only lab in the US that developed the film, was going to stop processing it at the end of the year. (Given the complexity and expense of the process, the end of Dwayne's processing meant the end of the road for the venerable color slide film. You can read one of many eulogies for Kodachrome, here.) But I figured that I'd have the time and occasion to shoot more rolls, in November and December.
I was wrong, but I'm not complaining. There couldn't have been a more appropriate place for me to shoot those last two rolls than at the SBRA Finals, at Eastside Dragway.
All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2011. Click directly on any image to see a larger version.
Over the last several years, I've spent hundreds of hours at Eastside, working on Democracy of Speed, my documentary project about the culture of drag racing. I was introduced the sport at Eastside, and it was there that I discovered that drag racing is more racially diverse and more open to women's participation than any other motor sport. I say more about drag racing and diversity (and show many more photos), here.
Like many others who know little about the scene, I thought that the people who go drag racing were just a bunch of rednecks. And you might think that the car above, flying the Confederate battle flag, confirms it. It doesn't. I've learned that the flag (you'll see a few at every race) says very little about the driver's actual attitude toward the African-Americans he races against. Often enough, the message that the flag sends and what happens at the track are completely contradictory.
All of the photos that are a part of Democracy of Speed were shot on black and white film. I'm going to guess, however, that I'll include two or three images from these last rolls of Kodachrome (after I've converted the images to black and white in Photoshop).
It had been several years since I'd last shot Kodachrome. I'd forgotten about the challenges and pleasures of using such a slow film. The ability to use slow shutter speeds, without resorting to filters, was definitely one of the pleasures. I like the results.
I'm also a fan of the shallow depth of field that ISOs of 25 and 64 allowed me to get, even in daylight.
Finally, I like the way that Kodachrome captured the dull, gray weather of the first day of racing.
Looking over my slides last week, after they'd been shipped back from Dwayne's, I wondered whether I should have been shooting with Kodachrome all along. Probably not. But it's easy to feel nostalgia for a film that produced such beautiful results and is now gone forever.