Coloramas: Who We Wanted To Be

Colorama photographs Eastman Kodak Grand Central Terminal panoramic photo album of American scenes, lifestyles, and achievements from the second half of the twentieth century. CBS/Kodak

They were billed as the largest color photographs in the world, at a time when popular color photography barely existed, reports Sunday Morning anchor Charles Osgood.

Photographs so sweeping they were called "Coloramas," a name as grand as the gallery that they hung in: Grand Central Station.

Eighteen feet high and 60 feet long, the Coloramas towered above the hustle and bustle of Grand Central's daily commute for more than 40 years and are still remembered fondly today.

Intended originally as advertising for Kodak's then-new color film, Coloramas ended up showing Americans who they wanted to be, how they wanted to live, and where in the world they wanted to go

Through the careful staging of such photographic giants as Ansel Adams and the polished art direction of Norman Rockwell, the Coloramas helped popularize the concept of the "Kodak Moment."

Now the non-profit photography foundation Aperture has just released a small book of these giant photographs - reduced to roughly one forty-two-hundredth of their original size.

Earlier this month, the curators of the Eastman Kodak House in Rochester, N.Y., hosted a book signing and the first ever reunion for all the folks who worked on the Coloramas over the years, from the photographers to the lab technicians and models.

Sadly, no existing full size prints of the Coloramas remain. If you wanted to take an equivalent photograph today you'd need a digital camera with a 2.5 billion pixel sensor.

But Coloramas do live on in memory, on film and as digital scans preserved at the Eastman House.

Even if your commute was never brightened by an enormous field of marigolds or your camping trips to Lake Placid never featured such calm waters, you might just want to take another look at the Coloramas.

The views were amazing.
  • Chris Hawke

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