Kodachrome and Root Beer

Lunch at Charlie's Place, Hortonville, WI, Summer 2010.
Kodachrome in the glovebox was not subjected to heat.
When small gauge film expert Toni Treadway of Brodsky & Treadway emailed with an offer of a few rolls of circa 1990s Kodachrome double 8 mm from her freezer, we knew what we'd do with it. While working on the Wisconsin Arts Board Wisconsin Labor Survey in 2007, we photographed a carhop named Elise at Charlie's Place in Hortonville. We wanted to make a short movie about the restaurant and the family that ran it. The owners were a brother and sister team who'd recently taken over from their retired dad who started it after buying an old A&W in 1965. Working together, they kept the place a viable summer business by orchestrating a self-described "shabby" Americana roadside atmosphere and offering up a selection of basic made-from-scratch food. The help of family-members and towns people was also essential. Patrons drink root beer floats out of frosted glasses (not styrofoam cups) and the sandwiches come wrapped in simple paper printed with the word "delicious" rather than the excess of multi-colored corporately-branded boxes. We filmed on classic car night during Elvis death week in August.  Carl showed up with bedazzled white jumpsuit and an armful of polyester flower leis he distributed generously as he hugged babies and greeted carloads of customers. Wife Tori, dressed as Marilyn, served sheet cake from the hood of a white Cadillac. We finished shooting by September and shipped it off the exposed Kodachrome Dwayne's in Kansas to beat the processing rush. Not only had the last roll of Kodachrome been produced by Kodak, but K-14 processing was scheduled to cease December 30, 2010 at the family-owned lab in Kansas.


Being There

Watch the full episode. See more In Wisconsin.

Being on TV is always odd and no less so last week when a Wisconsin Public Television segment on our Real Photo Postcard  Survey Project aired. We heard of the solid air date through a newspaper reporter named Suzanne Weiss at the Herald-Times-Reporter. She'd received a press release and wrote a feature story on our project and the upcoming TV coverage.

Television is random as it beams into homes and places sometimes unanticipated. For example, we didn't get around to visiting our friend Nigel at Fox Lake Correctional as we usually do around the holidays. A fan of public media, he anticipated seeing us on TV. After the feature aired on January 6, he wrote us a hand-written letter critiquing our on-camera fashions:
It was fun to see you guys again...one of the early shots showed Johnie while the narrator babbled on and it appeared as though he was wearing a black scarf and I was like Oh no! Pretentious indoor artist scarf. But then later on I saw it was the black camera cloak. So obviously I was relieved...
We received other various responses including an email from a cordial woman named Judith who attached a digital snap capturing her profile. She was at a hockey game wearing wearing pink cat eye glasses and had a pointy chin. She wrote: "Julie...I think we could have been twins...ha ha...I am just 200 pounds larger."

When Liz Koerner (producer/director), Brad Wray (sound engineeer) and Mike Eicher (videographer) visited our studio in June to shoot the segment, we were finishing an intense string of portraits and palladium prints for a project to open in July at Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee. Our studio was cluttered with the stuff of unfinished works-in-progress, yet the crew found order and a visual story. They worked around the sporadic clattering of beer bottles being emptied from a dumpster at the bar across the street and the tangle of lights and cameras only leaving behind one quartz light and stand which we still need to return. We invited our longtime neighbors Ryan Ackley and Rich Bouril to come by for postcard portraits. Ryan owns the Boarding House, a skateboard shop, around the corner from our studio. We've known him since he was nine when we first moved into our studio. Richie owns the Culture Cafe across town and we share rural Wisconsin roots and buy his fresh-roasted coffee. We photographed the crew too.
Liz Koerner (producter/director) interviews John Shimon
in the midst of our cluttered Manitowoc studio while
Mike Eicher shoots video and Brad Wray records sound (6.17.10).