BYLINE: Bruce Handy
Photographs excerpted from Colorama: The World's Largest Photographs, from Kodak and the George Eastman House Collection, to be published in October by the Aperture Foundation, Inc. All individual images
(c) by the Eastman Kodak Company.
Most commercial art is crafted with a view toward fueling covetousness-envy too. (The American economy would be nowhere without a lion's share of the seven deadly sins.) But rarely does advertising attempt to awe. That was the particular genius of the Kodak Colorama. If ancient Rome inscribed tales of military victories on colossal arches and towering pillars, if the medieval church glorified God with soaring cathedrals, then the Colorama was arguably the closest midcentury America came to narrating its own stories and celebrating its own secular myths in a similarly epic, inspiring, and sometimes bludgeoning fashion.
Hyped as "the world's largest photograph" (it was true, too), the Colorama was a kind of glorified billboard that from 1950 to 1990 swept across the east balcony of Grand Central station, itself a sort of cathedral. Every three weeks, the Colorama featured a new …