For forty years, the Colorama dominated the east wall of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, where it was seen by thousands of people passing through each day. The massive backlit transparencies measured 60 feet wide by 18 feet tall and changed every few weeks between 1950 and 1990, resulting in a total production of 565 Coloramas. Eastman Kodak Company conceived of the imposing size and vibrancy to demonstrate the brilliance of color photography, and thus, the company’s color film products. At a time when color photographs were seen by many as garish or prosaic, Eastman Kodak sought to mass-market color photography, just as the company had marketed shapshot photography since it introduced the Kodak camera in 1888 and the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900. The idealized lifestyle presented in the Coloramas was intended to celebrate family or travel snapshooting, reinforcing the idea that color photography was the best way to memorialize all of life’s moments. The Colorama display in Grand Central Terminal was one of the longest and most successful corporate marketing campaigns of the twentieth century and continues to be examined in the context of the history of advertising and color photography.
Founded in 1947, the GEORGE EASTMAN MUSEUM is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States, located on the historic Rochester estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 28,000 motion picture films, the world’s preeminent collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema, and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. As a research and teaching institution, the Eastman Museum has an active publishing program and, through its two joint master’s degree programs with the University of Rochester, makes critical contributions to film preservation and to photographic preservation and collections management.
- From the George Eastman Museum collection, a selection of vibrant Coloramas displayed at Grand Central Terminal between 1950 and 1990
- Once called the “world’s largest photographs,” these remarkable Kodak panoramas were seen by millions
- Sheds fascinating insight on the history of American advertising and color photography as well as the lasting impact of the Colorama
Photos © Eastman Kodak Company