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New York City: Kodak's super-sized shots of ideal American life

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Long before Instagram and Twitpics, there were Kodak Coloramas -- 60-foot wide, 18-foot high transparencies that greeted visitors and commuters at Grand Central Station in New York City from 1950 to 1990. Deemed the largest pictures of their day, the images were clever Kodak ads that emphasized an idealized post-war American life, one that required a camera to capture family photos, leisure time and vacation travel.

Now, they're back -- and in the same venue. Thirty-six photographs from the original collection are being shown at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex at Grand Central through Nov. 1. The photos are smaller than the originals, but large enough to convey the visual impact the enormous images would have had. (See a sampling in this photo gallery.)

"The Coloramas taught us not only what to photograph, but also how to see the world as though it were a photograph," curator Alison Nordstrom of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, says in a statement about the show. "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."

Subjects range from a young woman photographing roses with an Instamatic camera and flash cube, deer in an idyllic meadow and a couple on a sailboat. Even archetypal TV parents Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were the subject of more than one Colorama. Not until 1968 and 1969 did any pictures of African Americans appear -- something that generated "nasty letters" at the time, according to Nordstrom. They are included in the current exhibition.

Contact: New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex, Grand Central Terminal, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends; (212) 878-0106. Admission is free. 



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