I commuted into Grand Central Terminal in the late 1980s. One of my daily pleasures included walking under the gigantic backlit photos (18 feet high and 60 feet wide) of the Eastman Kodak exhibit above the east balcony. I found out recently that fellow RIT alumnus Neil Montanus shot 55 of these Coloramas, more than photographers Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and others combined.
Many of his early images evoked a Normal Rockwell-like view of America. As Katharine Seelye writes: “The campaign promoted the American dream, or at least a gauzy version of it, with cheerful white nuclear families in the suburbs documenting their lives with cameras and going for those Kodak moments.”
Later, Montanus went around the world, shooting photos that the company would use for advertising in those countries. These are the images that I remember—from the stunning underwater colors of the Great Barrier Reef to the beautiful cheetahs from his African safaris.
One of the longest-running ad campaigns in US corporate history, the Colorama exhibit was taken down in 1990, as digital photography proved to be Kodak’s undoing. In an ironic twist, Grand Central’s east balcony is now an Apple store.
Montanus died at aged 92 in Rochester, NY. Read the NY Times obituary.
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