A Brief History of 35mm Slides November 21, 2017 – Posted in: Design, Photography, Slides

The term ‘slide’ commonly refers to a 35 mm photographic positive image held inside a plastic, card or mount. Without this mount, the transparent film material would not be able to ‘slide’ from one image to another inside a carousel or magazine when projected. In contrast to negative-based film, reversal film is photo-chemically processed as a positive image. A slide is a high-resolution positive photograph that is exemplary in its accurate colour reproduction and versatility. A 35 mm slide can be magnified by a factor of 100 (from 35 mm to 3,500 mm) and still maintain a crisp and detailed projected image.

Kodak’s commercial slogan during the 1950s was: ‘For sparkling pictures big as life … Kodak 35mm colour slides’. During the 35 years of their popularity, from 1960s to the mid-1990s, 35 mm slides were a cheap and easy way to create high-quality projected images in a technological environment that offered few, if any, viable alternatives.

Even if money were no object, no other medium could compete with the ability of slides to produce large-scale projected images of comparable excellence. In its heyday processing costs for slides were relatively low and they were widely used in contexts ranging from domestic to commercial applications such as advertising, fashion and industry as well as academia and the arts.

Home slide shows were a relatively common phenomenon in many homes during the 1950s and 1960s. If there was an enthusiast in the family, any visit from relatives or the arrival of a new batch of slides from the film processing service provided an excuse to bring out the entire collection of 35 mm slides, set up the slide projector and the screen, turn out the lights, then test the endurance of the assembled audience with a marathon of old holiday photos and pictures taken at weddings, birthdays and other family events, all accompanied by live commentary.