October 15, 2011 — December 31, 2011
For 40 years travelers at New York’s Grand Central Terminal scurried to their destinations under the brilliance of one of the most effective advertising programs in history, Kodak’s 18-by-60 feet Coloramas. The massive panoramas were known as the largest photographs in the world, and were hailed as remarkable by no less a photographer than Ansel Adams.
All told, 565 of these 18’ x 60’ illuminated illustrations adorned the terminal from 1950 to 1990, and the campaign included some of the top photographers in the country (including Adams himself).
With both technical and marketing brilliance, Coloramas extolled an idealized version of America—not to mention the need to capture this version of the good life on film. The nostalgic prints may seem almost kitschy today, but in their time, they represented amateur photography as an essential element of family life, travel, and leisure. Now they represent a time that, in a sense, never was.
That this exhibition is incredibly colorful is no surprise, considering it was sponsored by a company touting color snapshots. The surprise is how photographs that started out as advertising wound up as fine art, and how they continue to impress today (even at one-twelfth their original size).
The exhibition was organized by the George Eastman House, the international museum of photography and film.