Kodachrome Taken Away: Last Photo Lab Processing Landmark Film to Stop

VIDEO: The film stock that started color photography having final roll processed.
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They really are taking Kodachrome away, this time for good.

The film, given a famous shout out in Paul Simon's 1973 song and used by countless photographers to document the late 20th century, won't be accepted for processing after today.

Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kan., is the last company in the world developing Kodachrome film, and today is the final day it's taking film. The last roll probably will be processed sometime next week, the company said.

Photographers had until noon today to get their film into the lab, according to the company, and people from all over the world rushed in their final rolls. One woman flew in from England to drop off film in-person, and Dwayne's received 500 packages from FedEx and 18 bags from the Post Office, almost all containing Kodachrome.

"I'm very surprised and maybe a little bit in shock," said Grant Steinle, vice president of operations for Dwayne's Photo and son of owner Dwayne Steinle. "It was really an icon of photography."

The photo lab even had special Kodak-yellow t-shirts printed up to mark the occasion, declaring, "The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired."

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

Kodachrome certainly had a long and remarkable run. Introduced in 1935 as a motion picture film, Kodachrome came of age with the baby-boomers. It's best known as the slide film that chronicled the iconic post-WWII decades in families' carousel projectors.

The popularity of Kodachrome was "the sort of thing that goes along with the beginning of the post-war prosperity, baby-boom concept," said Todd Gustavson, curator of technology at the George Eastman House Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y. "After the war, people had some money in their pockets. ... They were starting to travel."

Kodachrome Sales Peaked Post-WWII

Sales of the product peaked in the 1960s and '70s before steadily declining as more modern films allowed easy prints for photographers. In 2009, when Kodak stopped making the film, it amounted to a fraction of one percent of the company's sales.

Kodachrome captured some key moments in our history. The film was in Abraham Zapruder's home-movie camera when he recorded the assassination of President Kennedy, and Edmund Hillary took Kodachrome along to document his history-making Mount Everest ascent in 1953.

Kodachrome the Choice of Photographers for Decades

In addition to hobbyists and families, Kodachrome was used by the best professional photographers in the world. One of the most famous Kodachrome images is surely Steve McCurry's picture of a green-eyed Afghan refugee girl featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.

Click here for a slide show of Kodachrome images.

McCurry also shot the final roll of Kodachrome film ever produced, already developed at Dwayne's Photo. A National Geographic Channel documentary slated for release in 2011 will follow McCurry's round-the-world journey as he composed Kodachrome's final frames.

Kodachrome Can't Be Developed in Home Labs

Kodachrome isn't the kind of product that can be developed by a hobbyist or even at the drug store.

"Unlike all the other color films, it's actually a black-and-white film. ... The color is added to it in processing," said Gustavson. "You can't do this at home. It's just not possible. And it was never really a mini-lab process."

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