Colorama returns home to Grand Central

Posted by on Jul 26 2012 | Photography

JR. MISS PAGEANT

JUNIOR MISS PAGEANT by Lee Howick (pictured center is ABC’s Diane Sawyer) March 9-30, 1964

I had the thrill of attending a press preview in New York City earlier this week for the exhibition Colorama. I happily stood amongst a vivid selection of 36 Coloramas from the Eastman House collection, on view to the public beginning Saturday at the Transit Museum at Grand Central.

One could say this is a homecoming for the Coloramas, the gigantic panoramic images that dominated Grand Central Terminal for 40 years, from 1950 to 1990.

Over time, a total of 565 Coloramas were displayed, changing out every three weeks. These towering backlit transparencies often received ovation from New Yorkers and travelers whenever a new photo was unveiled. The ad campaign ended when the terminal was restored in 1990.

The images in the new exhibition are a few feet in width yet still subtly suggest you buy film so you, too, can take a beautiful color photo. This subtly in advertising dates back to company founder George Eastman, who sold the experience and emotion rather than just the camera and roll of film.

Colorama by Neil Montanus December 27, 1962 to January 12, 1963 #235

I’ve talked with and befriended at least a dozen of the Colorama photographers and have heard several dramatic backstories. I shared many of these stories at the press preview, and doubt I will ever tire of talking about the wonder of Colorama.

For the millions passing through busy Grand Central for almost half of the terminal’s existence, these scenes were a moment of escapism, as New Yorkers and tourists longed for these Kodak moments to unfold in their own worlds. I had that experience, once again, yesterday. And I’m still smiling.

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