Colorama exhibition opens at Grand Central
Images from iconic Kodak ad compaign return
For Release 2012-07-26
New York, NY – Kodak Coloramas – the gigantic, panoramic advertising images that depicted “idealized” American life from 1950 to 1990 – dominated Grand Central Terminal for four decades. Promoted as “the world’s largest photographs,” the 18-foot high, 60-foot wide backlit transparencies towered over the Terminal’s main concourse in the space now occupied by the Apple Store. For the first time since the Kodak campaign ended in 1990, Coloramas return to Grand Central – albeit in more-manageable sizes – for a special exhibit at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex July 28 – November 1, 2012.
Thirty-six prints of original images will be on view in Grand Central. The prints – measuring up to two feet high and six feet wide – date from the 1960s, arguably the heyday for the Colorama campaign and the advertising industry overall, as well as a time of great social change in America. The images influenced the way Americans viewed photography and ushered in a new era of advertising. They are part of the international traveling exhibition created by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, which holds the entire Colorama archive.
The Grand Central exhibit also features video footage of photographers with their photos, telling personal stories of creating and unveiling the huge transparencies, and details on how they shot the images.
“The Colorama images were highly stylized ideas of American life that became part of the Grand Central experience for millions of visitors over a 40-year span,” says Gabrielle Shubert, director of the Transit Museum. “A new image never went unnoticed, and a little trigger in the back of commuters’ minds somehow always anticipated the next change, or hoped to prolong the current image. As we prepare for our Centennial, the return of these images serves as a reminder of how Grand Central has been at the center of life and culture in New York and the Northeast for all these decades.”
“These illuminated images reflected and reinforced American values and aspirations while encouraging picture-taking as an essential aspect of leisure, travel, and family,” says Alison Nordström, Eastman House curator of photographs. “The Coloramas taught us not only what to photograph, but also how to see the world as though it were a photograph. They served to manifest and visualize values that even then were seen as nostalgic and in jeopardy, salvageable only through the time-defying alchemy of Kodak cameras and film.
In the first two decades of Colorama, one constant in all the images was a model using a Kodak camera and photographing family, an activity, or a beautiful scene. Well-known names associated with Colorama included photographer Ansel Adams, artist Norman Rockwell, photographer Elliot Porter, and TV’s Ozzie and Harriett, who appeared in several images. One image that will be on display features a beauty not yet well-known, who is now a household name: ABC’s “World News” anchor and media personality Diane Sawyer was photographed in 1964 upon receiving her Junior Miss Pageant crown in Mobile, Alabama.
Other images in the Transit Museum’s exhibit include the first public photo of the Earth as seen from the moon, and an Ansel Adams photo of farmers harvesting wheat in Oregon.
As groundbreaking as the Kodak advertising campaign was for photography, and for showing the “ideal America,” one component of American life is notably missing upon reflection of the campaign’s early years. Not until 1968 did a Colorama image feature an African-American model. That photo, which will be on display at the exhibit, and one from 1969 that prominently featured an African-American couple were not popular with all passersby. “To Kodak’s surprise, the image generated nasty letters,” Nordström said.
A total of 565 Coloramas were displayed in Grand Central, and photographs were changed out every three weeks until 1990, when the Terminal was renovated and declared a landmark. The final display was a glittering nighttime view of the New York City skyline, with an oversized red apple nestled among the buildings — the only digital enhancement ever created for the Colorama program. The accompanying copy read, “Kodak thanks the Big Apple for 40 years of friendship in Grand Central.”
The Colorama exhibition and tour are generously supported by the Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation, inc. in memory of former Kodak Vice President of Advertising Pete Potter’s instrumental role in bringing Colorama to life.
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ABOUT GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL:
Grand Central Terminal stands as one of America’s greatest transportation hubs and one of New York City’s most iconic buildings. It is both a national institution and an international example of the success that can be achieved giving new life to an historic building that otherwise may have been destroyed. Over the course of a colorful and tumultuous 100-year history, Grand Central has gone from being simply the start and end points of long-distance rail travel, to being the iconic home of Metro-North Railroad and a destination for commuters, tourists and residents that boasts restaurants, cocktail lounges, a gourmet market, and numerous specialty shops. Its storied Vanderbilt Hall, once the waiting area for long-distance travelers, is one of the most-desired public events spaces in the city. Starting with a kick-off event on February 1, 2013, Grand Central will celebrate its 100th anniversary with events and activities planned all year long. Find more details at www.grandcentralterminal.com.
ABOUT NEW YORK TRANSIT MUSEUM:
The New York Transit Museum, one of the city’s leading cultural institutions, is the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history and one of the premier institutions of its kind in the world. The Museum explores the development of the greater New York metropolitan region through the presentations of exhibitions, tours, educational programs and workshops dealing with the cultural, social and technological history of public transportation. Since its inception more than a quarter century ago, the Museum – which is housed in a historic 1936 IND subway station in Brooklyn Heights – has grown in scope and popularity. The New York Transit Museum operates a Gallery Annex in Grand Central Terminal that presents changing exhibitions. As custodian and interpreter of the region’s extensive public transportation networks, the Museum strives to share through its public programs their rich and vibrant history with local, regional, and international audiences.
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Régine Labossière, Goodman Media for Grand Central Terminal
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