The long-term development of three-color Kodachrome. An odyssey from the additive to the subtractive method of color reproduction.


  • Nicolas Le Guern Evry/Paris Saclay University, Cokin KT s.a.s.u.



Color photography, Kodachrome, Eastman Kodak, additive technology, subtractive technology, industrial research, Kodak Research Laboratory


The introduction of three-color Kodachrome in 1935 was possible thanks to the long collaboration between the independent inventors Leopold Mannes and Leopold Godowsky and the managers of the Kodak Research Laboratory at Rochester, New York. This paper considers this long research work initiated in 1917 by examining the technological solutions Mannes and Godowsky progressively followed, in the historical context of the first cinematographic additive processes. Besides the technological context, the paper analyzes the evolution of Mannes and Godowsky position into Kodak research. Working independently at the beginning, the two young men were funded by their families first, then by Eastman Kodak and Kuhn, Loeb & Co, experimenting in their personal laboratory. In a second step, Mannes and Godowsky were finally employed by Kodak in 1931 as consultant researchers and incorporated with the team of the Kodak Research Laboratory at Rochester. In the mid-1930s Mannes and Godowsky were able to develop a two-color cinematographic process, which finally evolved in the three-color Kodachrome process. This innovative process was announced in April 1935, despite the fact that the Kodak researchers did not succeed in finding a correct developing process for exposed films. An immense amount of work was done in the American laboratory to find a correct sequence of chromogenic development in the summer 1935. This long research odyssey ended when the Kodak research team managed to drastically simplify the developing process of exposed Kodachrome rolls in 1938, encouraged by the recent German competition and the Agfa Color Neu process.


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How to Cite

Le Guern, N. (2022) “ An odyssey from the additive to the subtractive method of color reproduction”., Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 14(01), pp. 24–32. doi: 10.23738/CCSJ.140103.



Color Photography & Film papers