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Ode to the 35mm Slide

By Olivia Harlow
In today’s world of immediate digital imaging, the idea of using a dark room, preparing a bulky screen, using a slide and setting up a carousel projector seems like a time-sucking inconvenience. Yet, these ideas were once extraordinary revolutions. And without these vital steps in history, photography and videography would not be what it is today.


It’s hard for modern photographers to imagine a world without playback options, delete buttons and limitless color. But if we rewind to the mid-1800s, photography tactics were much different than what we know now. Metal prints, monotone, undefined blurs. Even more so, the ways in which photos are viewed today is entirely different than before. Prior to the iconic lantern slide, which made its first appearance in 1850, photographs were simply viewed via print. A photographer took a photo, unable to look back at what he/she had captured, and it wasn’t until the roll of film had expired and was ready to be developed that a photographer would begin the process of bringing images to life. At this point, the photographer would generally study his/her images in an isolated dark room. But, when the lantern slide was born, so was a more immersive experience. These Hyalotype prints—the brainchild of William and Frederick Langenheim—were transparent prints projected onto illuminated surfaces, allowing audiences to view the photos just as you would view a movie. You see, these projected slides invited viewers to become part of the photograph—to see the world through the eye of a lens. Quickly, the lantern slide gained popularity, drawing in mass crowds for both entertainment and visual education. It wasn’t until 1916 that the German company Agfa created color slides, similar to the slides still used today in high school classrooms and large lecture halls.


Of all vital facets of photographic history, 1935 is arguably among the most noteworthy. This was the year the 35mm was born. Following Kodachrome’s discovery of three-color process, the 35mm slide allowed photographers a hassle-free experience. Up until that point, photographers who had wished to capture color had to wrestle heavy glass plates, tripods, long exposures and lengthy development procedures—still with little luck in crafting a fruitful image. And similarly, the way to show such images was complex and generally disappointing, using additive methods that required bright lights to display a still less-than-sharp image. When the 35mm came to life, things were different. Unlike its predecessors, Kodachrome didn’t require as much light, yet was able to produce a clearer and more saturated image than ever before. Along with this image quality improvement, the lantern itself was replaced by an electric slide. And as they say, the rest is history. These 35mm projectors were the industry standard—loved and cherished by all photographers and videographers—until their woeful demise in 2004. Once digital photography was born, there became little need for projection. Over the decades, digital evolution has moved at an impressive speed, changing the ways we capture still photos and record video, as well as how we view the content. Nowadays, we can simply browse photos on our camera and plug them to laptops or TVs for on-demand slideshows. Today, we bid a bittersweet farewell to the nearly extinct 35mm and other similar formats (they’re still around in cult-ish followings, revered like a severely threatened endangered species). For most on-the-go, deadline-oriented photographers, videographers and consumers, the ability to digitize older formats and playback recordings on a laptop, TV or HD projector, leaves little need or desire for the scratchy, nearly ancient old school carousels. That said, what happens when technology out-runs us?


For many of us, we wonder what to do with our old photographs and VHS tapes, while also stressing about what will happen when we can no longer play DVDs and CDs. What will we do when the present becomes yet again outdated and nonoperational? You might not have the nearly extinct complimentary carousel projector anymore, but that’s no reason to throw out your old slides. Those are your memories, after all! And that’s where we come in. At Legacybox, we specialize in digitizing your life’s favorite memories. Bring in your slides, and we will immortalize them, providing on-demand (you know, that instant satisfaction!) viewing through our latest and greatest technology. Don’t let your memories fade away; instead, give them a whole new life.
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