The Coloramas!

The lost splendor of the 'Kodak way of life'

Colorama Kodak Photo
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Vivid, deeply saturated and promoted by Kodak as, “the world’s largest photographs”, the ‘Coloramas’ were a familiar sight to millions of commuters in New York City’s Grand Central Station. Displayed from 1950 to 1990 these enormous backlit transparencies (measuring 18 feet by 60 feet) presented an idealized view of American life in the 20th-century and promoted photography as an essential leisure activity.

Colorama Kodak Photo

Neil Montanus self portrait, 1950’s

Colorama Kodak Photo

A 1950’s Kodak Brownie. Photo Neil Mountanus

There were a total of 565 Coloramas displayed which were changed every three weeks. Each new Colorama, was often well received – even eagerly anticipated – by New Yorkers and travelers alike. Some of the most popular Coloramas of the 1950’s and 1960’s were created by Neil Montanus, who photographed 55 of them. Montanus, who is still working today, began his diverse and successful career in 1954 and is widely known for the ‘best portrait ever’ of Walt Disney that is still in use today.

Eastman House curator of photographs, Dr. Alison Nordström, has said, “The Coloramas taught us not only what to photograph, but 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.”

The following photos are by Neil Mountanus for Kodak. Please click image to view the entire photo.

In 1990 Grand Central Terminal was renovated to landmark condition which marked the end of the Colorama. The last Colorama displayed featured a glimmering nighttime view of the New York City skyline with a large red apple sitting among the buildings. This apple was the only digital modification done to a Colorama image. The Colorama’s were more than just an advertising fixture, they were a colorful and pleasant reminder to pause for just a moment and maybe a reason to smile.

Colorama Kodak Photo

Photo shoot for Colorama, 1961. Photo: Neil Montanus / Kodak

Colorama Kodak Photo

Photo shoot setup for Colorama. Photo: Neil Montanus / Kodak

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