Street Photos of 1960s New York in Kodachrome by Tod Papageorge

Hungry for commercial work, the young photographer captured the city’s storefronts and residents with Kodachrome film from 1966 to 1967.

Comments: 86

  1. Great photos, I'd love to see more. Love the last one of Howard Johnson's.

  2. @Deb Paley I like that last one too. In the window, you can see a reflection of Buitoni's restaurant and the RKO Palace (Alfie is billed).

  3. Kodachrome, immortalized in song and cinema, photography as an art form, a moment in time captured in an exact rendition. Digital pictures can not compete with the rich photos saturated in true to life colors that come alive in slide film. Instant and convenient yes, superior image quality no.

  4. @mlb4ever And jaw-dropping when projected. Years ago, a friend and I went on a trip together and when we came back we had a slide show. Most of our shots were of the same scenes, but mine were shot on Kodachrome 25, underexposed half a stop (a trick I learned from the pros), while his were shot on Ektachrome. His shots came first -- faint and bluish and grainy, in the manner of Ektrachrome. Then my first shot came up on the scream and everybody's jaw dropped. "How did you get such beautiful colors?" they asked. And when I revisit those slides, they'll still be as vibrant as the day we watched them.

  5. @Josh Hill Unless you projected them a lot. Kodachrome fades VERY quickly under the bright lights; AV pros who shot on Kodachrome made Ektachrome dupes for their slideshows.

  6. Good old Kodachrome! I have slides and 8mm films from the 50's taken on Kodachrome. They look like they were taken yesterday.

  7. @MIKEinNYC I have some 16mm movies my grandfather shot with Kodachrome when it was introduced in the 1930s, and they haven't faded either!

  8. @MIKEinNYC And that's part of the reason you can't get Kodachrome anymore. The dyes used in the process were inorganic and very polluting. I loved Kodachrome and was sad to see it go, but it's not so hard to replicate that look on the better digital photography software platforms.

  9. @R.F. TBH I never cared for the later Kodachrome 25 and 64 that were available when I photographed; the colors tended towards cyan/green. (Kodachrome 200 was pretty sweet though). Fuji Velvia is close enough for government work - but getting it developed means a trip to Manhattan or mailing it - my local minilab charges $25 per ROLL for E6 processing.

  10. Papgeorge is one of the greats.

  11. Where can I see more of these wonderful photos?

  12. Fantastic series of street photographs!! Simply superb!!

  13. To say that digital photography can not compete with Kodachrome is like saying Kodachrome can not compete with daguerreotypes. This is totally beside the point. Mostly when you consider saturation. If anything cries digital photography this is certainly the hyper colour saturation and ultra sharpness of some shots. This is not reality anymore due to this cold and spiked saturation while Kodachrome is warmth and soft saturation.

  14. @Denis-Vincent Something that often gets overlooked is the actual magic that happened in the darkroom. The burning, dodging, exposure etc you had to do to correct an okay shot. And the paper & chemistry came into play. And the dark the music the smells! Now that same magic happens in Photoshop etc. It is still fun, but, yes, not the same. Drooling over these photos. Thanks for the article.

  15. @bonhomie true for B&W but irrelevant to slides. but even for B&W some great photographers sent it out and didn't labor over their prints in the darkroom.

  16. @Denis-Vincent I've seen many claims on behalf of digital camera companies and processing softwares to be able to reproduce the look and feel Kodachrome, none of them measure up. If you're arguing that the look of photography changes over time, I wholeheartedly agree. But digital has never replicated the aesthetic of Kodachrome. Which might be for the best, as there is an authenticity to it that would be lost.

  17. Although Tod Papageorge was my teacher in graduate school, I had never seen this body of work. It is both amazing look at as a by-gone era of New York, but it also represents a different time in photography, where film and the street was king. Love it.

  18. Tod Papageorge's b&w photographs have long shown us things we've failed to look at with care or attention. It's wild to see this endeavor in color. Kind of like learning a great draughtsman has a hidden stash of beautiful paintings.

  19. Yes, these are very good!

  20. I love the thought that goes behind the taking of a photograph back in the days when taking a picture cost something and wasn’t just deleted. There was so much more to it in terms of looking for a shot.

  21. Kodachrome film and processing was a true landmark in the history of photography.

  22. Great photos. NY in the 60s—-seems like yesterday!

  23. Terrific pictures. Chemical Bank New York Trust Co., a blast from the past. And love the movie theatre showing "The Swinger."

  24. Can we please see more? How about an exhibit at a museum or gallery in the city?

  25. @charlie In the absence of a Papageorge exhibition, I would strongly advise a trip down to DC to view the Gordon Parks retrospective at the National Gallery. Back in the 1960s, Mr. Parks' photos inspired me to buy my first 35mm camera, a Pentax Spotmatic. At 74, I'm still shooting, and even made a nice living at it.

  26. New York used to be far more interesting.

  27. @Will. Yaaawwwn. That's what I do these days when I walk in the formerly interesting neighborhood known as West Chelsea along the High Line. Even Kodachrome can't bring life to all the blandness spreading through NYC.

  28. More! We want more!

  29. This is another example of why film images will always be king over digital. I invite readers to get out their film cameras and hit the streets. Kodachrome may be gone but there are many other fine films available.

  30. @Skip Indeed. Kodak just release the new Ektachrome 100. Personally, I'm waiting for the 120 version.

  31. My goodness. Lived in Chelsea 69-81. Walked around the city taking photos all the time using my Leica M4 purchased from Ken Hansen and Kodachrome 25. Now I better try and find all the slide trays !

  32. Like 90% of street photography, these are just snapshots, and they are not important in any way.

  33. @Gofry That should be right but it's not. The photos are marvelous. Precisely because they are snapshots and wonderfully composed ones at that. Artfully capturing life as it was has a magic in it. Many old movies are only redeemable now because of what they show in their backgrounds -"snapshots" of another time. But your probably right and I'm just a sucker for nostalgia but that "Burgundy Cherry Ice Cream" sure looks good.

  34. Thanks ever so much for your insight and instruction. Please continue to be the final word on everything, won't you?

  35. @Gofry "...and they are not important in any way." Oh dear, please do expand. "Important" has got to be one of the most subjective words in our language, so help us out here? What unspoken set of parameters are you using to draw such a conclusion? The photos didn't assist in making the moon-shot a reality? They had nothing to do with the development of life-saving vaccines? This makes one wonder just how unimportant most people's opinions are, why they need to broadcast them in the first place, and old truths about failed creators devolving into critics.

  36. Mama took my Kodachrome away.

  37. These photos swing like nothing ever swung!

  38. Imagine listening to Paul Simon's song, 'Kodachrome' and smelling the anticipating taste of a juicy crunchy hotdog with sauerkraut and mustard on a soft bun as you wait on an elevated subway platform with graffitti-stained advertising posters behind you while looking at these fabulous pictures. Just great.

  39. Recognized the Howard Johnson's instantly!

  40. Fabulous. Papageorge shows us why he ranks among the great photographers of his era. These are keenly, wittingly observed images.

  41. We live in a digital age. These photos may have been shot on slide film, but obviously they were scanned and processed digitally all the way to the digital monitor you are looking at them on. By the time we see them, they are more digital than analog, the film being just one step in a workflow process of many steps, that start with the advice the young photographer was given and include the professionalism of his vision (excluding scenes that are not clean), the amount of time he spent on the streets, until the quality of the screen you are viewing them on, which is far from standardized. And before so much is made of the mere film, these are shot by a top notch pro and presumably the later steps in the workflow are done by top notch professionals. What you are seeing is no doubt different from watching the slides projected directly So just buying a film camera and taking pictures is not going to do you anything all by itself. So, my beloved film fetishists, also note the limitations of Kodachrome, ie, not having the iso to capture movement or any light besides full daylight. I was alive then. Night fell. People moved.

  42. @Frank D It is how the image is captured not what happens to it after that identifies film from digital. With film the light changes the dye molecules. In digital you have the sensor's photo sites sending an electrical signal to a computer/processor. The resulting images will be different. No amount of excuses of the "they are more digital than analog" will blur the distinction between the two. Seeing on my computer screen images of a Van Gogh painting does not change the look of his oil colours.

  43. Completely agree. When light hits film it “spreads” across the plane in a way that digital cannot reproduce. You see it most in areas that are slightly overexposed, the natural and gradual spread which is only possible bc film allows for a continuum, whereas each pixel of a digital shot can only be a 1 or a 0, no in between.

  44. For someone who was a child growing up in the Connecticut suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s, photos such as these remind me why coming into "the city" during those days seemed like a trip to an urban otherworld.

  45. Beautiful color saturation. Brought me back to the glory of this time, a simpler, more joyful, alive time.

  46. I loved Kodachrome and wish I had been more adventurous in my photography. My first camera was a Kodak Retina 2 A made in Germany in the 1950's and later a Leica R-3. Many of my slides are gone as a result of moves but those that survive look as beautiful today some over 50 years later. in the 1960's I worked for a film processor that was able to process Kodachrome, but frankly I preferred to have my film processed by Kodak in Rochester. One more piece of history lost to the digital age. I suspect that as floppy discs and dial telephones and 411 information are memories for us elders, this generation will in 50 years think fondly of pointing their phone at a person to take their moving image as odd as sending a micro-camera through their digestive tract to map the innermost parts of their anatomy.

  47. I bought the book in December. It has become one of my favorite books. The colors and compositions are amazing. Some of the comments on this page decry the artificial look of digital. It'd not a fair critique. Two different mediums. Both equally valid.

  48. It's good to see photos of the City back then, but something is missing. Perhaps the sampling is too small.

  49. @On-the-spot Guidance yes indeed...thanks for sharing!

  50. Love the photos and the article. While studying them, and for still unclear reasons, I was proud to have been born in 1967. So much happening in this country then that is still unresolved. But oh, what character to be found back then in the everyday. I wish there was a better sense of what people from marginalized communities looked like from his perspective. I know incredible souls like Gordon Parks have addressed this, but this photographer's approach is so striking I remain curious. What did he see? Or not see?

  51. Amazing. So precious. Thank you.

  52. Re. the shot of the people sitting in HoJo's... The perspective is such that the viewer ought to be able to see the photographer's reflection in the window. Probably falling on the waitress's uniform. Airbrush? Not that I care... I'm not a stickler for un-manipulated, altered or "trad." Whatever must be done to make it better, do it. Avedon, from time to time, hired the services of a great retoucher. His secret weapon.

  53. @Taz He is visible, tucked neatly between the two HoJo ad photos in the window.

  54. @Taz Actually, no his reflection should NOT be in the glass at all. Look up: "mirrors, angle of incidence equals angle of reflection." Think of movie shoots with someone looking into a mirror at an angle--actor is instructed to keep the movie camera centered within the mirror.... He was a good 15 to 20 degrees off parallel from that store front, so could not be in the glass. Possibly/probably a specific choice by him, to not reflect.

  55. Lol, Taz these photos are the real deal, it’s ok to accept it :)

  56. In the lower right corner of the picture of the guy peering under the hood, you can just catch a glimpse of the construction project that demolished the beautiful Savoy Plaza Hotel to make way for the GM skyscraper. Kind of on the order of Bonwit Teller being demolished to be replaced by Trump Tower.

  57. These are photos of the New York I once knew - Columbia class of ‘73.

  58. wow. some good stuff. But the color are greyer than I remember, if nonetheless warmer than Ektachrome. Perhaps the film has aged. My own Ks are cleaner, clearer

  59. I can smell The City when I look at these photos. More please!

  60. One of the more poignant moments in growing old is hearing the question, "Kodachrome? Whats that"?

  61. I love that he saved the pictures, and have now released them to the world.

  62. “In fact, I never really remember showing them to Garry, Joel or anyone else.” The antithesis of social media. Images illuminated by Edison's inspired light bulb, through a George Eastman emulsion Kodachrome . Poetry in motion. Thanks for the memories.

  63. What’s interesting is how our view of older photography is influenced by modern aesthetics. The fact that he never showed these photos to anyone leads me to believe he may have thought they weren’t any good at the time. Maybe because color was not as popular then, but Todd’s unique observations of street life shines through. Time to sift through some old Kodachromes for a few overlooked gems.

  64. We are so fortunate that Mr Papageorge chose Kodachrome film and coped with the limitations of its lack of speed. Its depth of color and longevity were unmatched. The images are still as vibrant as the day they were taken and will remain that way for a very long time. The images give us an unrivaled impression of what it was like to be there. As one who is old enough to remember, it arouses poignant recollections of a very different era.

  65. With street photographers darting about the sidewalks and crosswalks of big cities to small towns, there are those shots offering little context, little contrast in textures and colors, and no story whatsoever. Papageorge knew how to share stories, some subtle, others not so much. And part of the beauty of his photography is how, at least for me, he manages to grab my attention because the story is so compelling.

  66. Kodachrome was known for it's warm color palette, which meant it had richer reds. Ektachrome was colder, which meant it had richer blues. The Fujichrome palette tended toward the green. Of the three, Kodachrome had the best archival quality, meaning that it kept its colors the longest...especially if kept cool and dry. It also had a very fine grain texture, which increased with film speed. The original Kodachrome was at ASA 25, which was pretty useless for anything except brightly lit scenes. It eventually made it to ASA 200, which was eight times faster (but still pretty slow by color film standards). Kodachrome was also notoriously hard to process, which meant it was more expensive to get developed. Kodachrome was also used for movie film. It was common for 8mm home movie cameras (e.g. the Zapruder film was made in Kodachrome). Most theatrical color movie film didn't use it, though. They were more interested in low cost prints, and didn't care about grain (film grain tends to 'average out', so you don't see it). I once worked a temporary job at Deluxe Film in Minneapolis (a distribute of theatrical movie film prints). When you walked into their warehouse on a warm summer morning you were hit with the chemical smell of disintegrating color movie film. Many of their prints were faded in a year or two.

  67. @W Thank you "W," as you made sense, and were accurate in the color-bias of the different films.

  68. @W Original Kodachrome was ASA 5, Kodachrome 25 appeared in the 1950's. Kodachrome's archival quality was a result of it's processing, it was additive, (e.g. dye transfer) as opposed to destructive, (etching away the emulsion chemically), as was used in processing Ektachrome. You are right about the processing difficulty's though, plus or minus an 1/8 of a degree or else big color shift's would occur.

  69. A GM product with the hood up. Yup, those were the days.

  70. @Blair Loved that one, made it my screen saver.

  71. @Blair And in front of the construction site for the G.M. Building, which was going up in '66-'67!

  72. Photography at its most essential is about "seeing" (the light and the scene); but what separates film from digital is all the rest of what made film photography a different experience: buying the choice of film, loading one's camera; knowing you had 36 shots before reloading, choosing your f-stop, shutter speed and focusing the shot, the tactile feel of the camera in your hands, developing or having your exposed film developed and printed, the anticipation and magic of seeing what you tried to capture come to life... it's along the lines of driving a car or being moved about by a self-driving vehicle.

  73. Always enjoy professional photography – journalism, advertising, artistic... This one – including the comments – especially so...Here’s why... As folks compared – and, yes, contrasted – different color photo technologies, it prompted some playing around... Took each of the pics into greyscale – and saw how the composition went from inspired to meh to even off-kilter... If the more talented can stop groaning at my obvious captaincy – here’s where things got more interesting... Began to (non-artistically) apply a dozen or so color compensations... > Some increased the vibrancy, by doing things like localized color contrast – for clarity, did no edge-modifying > Some of these and some others negated the blue-green bias of Kodachrome > Some trued things up more – as reverse-engineered this by looking at objects of known color...e.g. license plates or advertising icons...Sort of a poor man’s Pantone – with 3 pigments instead of 10 But here’s the punch line – and once it became evident, it virtually jumped out the screen... The photographer had not only composed these pictures as color images – he had clearly composed them with the blue-green bias of Kodachrome in mind... Perhaps that’s why they were selected for this article – but not for anything prior... Verisimilitude is more of a way-station for me in art, than any sort of floor or ceiling... But my deepest respect goes to those artists who can truly riff on it....

  74. Don Draper would love these.

  75. Kodachrome, delivering images with surreal vibrant color improving upon the reality it captures. Its no wonder it has it's own song. Photography is far more efficient now but there was something special about the days of dark rooms, their dim lighting, the smell of photo chemicals and watching an image emerge on a sheet of paper you rock in a pair of tongs.

  76. What a stunning set of images. I love the quality of Kodachrome photographs and the deeply saturated colors they capture. Beautiful.

  77. To heck with 1's and 0's. I'm a film guy. Funny how we advance (no pun) only to take a step backwards. Film is just more beautiful and interesting. And it takes more effort which means you have to think more in advance. Kind of the opposite of Twitter in Chief who's access to 1's and 0's is everybody's nightmare now. Film Rules!

  78. I took the train from Long Branch into the city with my mother around 1965 to visit an artist friend of hers. Her friend had a studio on Washington Square. She sketched lingerie ads that ran in the NYT. I was all of 13 at the time. Amazing.

  79. Today his face would be in every photo in the modern style. In all seriousness though, what is the woman doing with what looks like a camera to her face and the concertina of pictures hanging below?

  80. Atop their humongous horses the NYC Mounted Police used to lay in wait behind the large steel doors of a parking garage on Thompson between West 3rd & Bleeker. At the instant the anti-war kids filling Washington Square Park reached some arbitrarily determined critical mass up would go the doors and out they would gallop. Half a league half a league half a league onward into the park to trample under hoof the menace wrought by flower-power’s peace and love!

  81. Papageorge's street photographs are timid in comparison to Winogrand's bluntness or Meyerowitz's ballet. It's no wonder that he kept them in a box. Their old-time NYC quality makes them valuable now.

  82. Iconic images as I remember NYC, recorded on an iconic medium. I remember buying bricks of Kodachrome at 47th St. Photo from the Hasidim clerks on Friday afternoon before sundown. There will never be a more durable medium than wet photography. I turn toward Fair Lawn, NJ and Rochester, NY and bow to Father Yellow Box. My Kodachrome slides are as good today, 50 years later, as the day they came from the lab in Fair Lawn.

  83. These are great. I love the expression he captured on the well-dressed woman peering upward. I wonder what she is looking at? I'll have to look for more from Papageorge.

  84. Hey - I remember those ! The concertina of plastic-sleeved newly processed photos. Yeah I used to use Kodachrome – reputed at the time to have the best colour accuracy or something. But it only took slides ? Wow - that a ways back - as a child photographer inheriting my father's Nikon F2 3 lens outfit (that was a bag of potatoes), then processing class year photos I'd taken on the twin-lens roll camera in the school darkroom it was such a pain to take so long to finish a roll that you'd forget what was on it by the time you finally got it processed - then half would be bad/out of focus and if you were lucky there'd be one or two good ones. Now - with a Gigabyte of storage costing about 25 cents, I have 150GB ($38?) of 25,000 photos just on my laptop - not including older archived photos - and I'm not even a professional photographer anymore - just a snapshooter ...

  85. B&W was a negative, not a "photograph" until printed. Kodachromes usually were projected as most color prints were difficult and very unstable. Now, 11 color printers can actually match the color range and subtlety of Kodachrome. Some recent papers can produce a truly photographic feel with archival quality. So for me, it's taken some 40 years for the "capture" to wed the "output"!