Idyllic Kodak Scenes Retake Grand Central


From 1950-1990, monumental advertising images of idyllic American life hung in Grand Central Terminal. On July 28, these Kodak Coloramas will return to the Terminal for an exhibition at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex.

Thirty-six downsized prints of originals will be displayed, alongside video footage of photographers speaking about their photographs. The featured images are from the 1960s and part of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film international traveling exhibition.

The original Kodak Coloramas—marketed at the time as “the world’s largest photographs”— were backlit transparencies 18 feet high and 60 feet wide. They hung in the main concourse, and were changed every three weeks until 1990; in total, 565 Coloramas were displayed. “The Colorama images were highly stylized ideas of American life that became part of the Grand Central experience for millions of visitors over a 40-year span,” said Transit Museum director Gabrielle Shubert in a press release.

In the same release, Eastman House curator of photographs Alison Nordström said, “The Coloramas taught us not only what to photograph, but also how to see the world as though it were a photograph. 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.” Norman Rockwell, Ansel Adams and Elliot Porter are among those associated with Colorama.  

The New York Transit Museum is the largest museum dedicated to the history of urban public transportation in the United States. It is located in a 1936 Independent Subway System station in Brooklyn Heights, and operates a Gallery Annex in Grand Central Terminal. The Terminal is preparing for its centennial, beginning Feb. 1, 2013.

Photo: Lee Howick. Junior Miss Pageant, Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile, Alabama, displayed March 9-30, 1964. Copyright Eastman Kodak Co. Courtesy George Eastman House.