In my view of the world of photography it has been a week of highs and of lows. There has been good news, and wonderful photos to be seen, there has been bad news, and feelings of dread for the future.
So to start with the bad news, Kodak annouced, in a cryptic manner, that they are planning to sell their film and paper business. http://www.kodak.com/ek/US/en/Kodak_Takes_Next_Steps_toward_Successful_Emergence.htm.
Now actually the press release was last week, but it takes some time to really appreciate what this may mean in the bigger scope of silver based photography. It is this week that their announcement has begun to strike me as something very bad. Kodak is currently in bankruptcy protection, and in case you don’t know, that means they are not bankrupt, but are re-organising in order to avoid becoming bankrupt. Many were hopeful that bankruptcy protection would have allowed them to restructure and right-size the film and paper business to match today’s actual market for such, which is very different than the market that their machinery and organisation was created to support. But instead they are throwing in the towel, and I can’t imagine anybody who would be looking to buy it.
The second bad news of the week, which struck me much harder than the Kodak announcement, as I do not actually shoot very much Kodak film any more, was that Efke is going to shut down their production of paper and film. Their coater has broken, and they do not think it is worth the investment to fix it based on their current revenue projections. Now you may say, I thought you mainly shoot Ilford, what does Efke have to do with anything? Well the thing is, I have shot Efke once to try it out, but that is not my interest; my interest is in New55 which is a project led by Bob Crowley to produce a modern replacement for Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film, which was an excellent product for use in 4×5 cameras. It was like using any other Polaroid product in that you had an instant result, but it was like almost no other product in that the result was a beautiful 4×5 negative.
So how do Efke and New55 come together? Well the thing was in the planned New55 product the actual film inside the envelope was likely going to be Efke film. And if Efke is no longer going to be producing film then Bob is going to have to find some other source of film. It can’t just be any film, for what he is trying to do it needs to have certain characteristics that the Efke film has/had and that modern black & white films do not. Thus the death of Efke may be the death of New55.
But now we come to the positives, and the for the first, which I thought was just wonderful, we come back to New55; We are told by Bob on the New55 blog, that a handmade batch of New55 was produced and a few envelopes were sent out to some real world photographers. And here we have actual results that look wonderful of actual use of New55: (Warning link NSFW) http://www.zoewiseman.com/ZW/2012/09/02/new55-film/
New55 and Polaroid Type 55 positives side by side:
©2012 Zoe Wiseman
Reading Zoe’s blog this morning made me want to go out and shoot today, it showed me that all is not lost, and art with large format cameras is still here today with us. It also gave me hope that Bob is the right person to figure out how to get New55 off the ground despite the pitfalls currently occurring.
The other good news this week, and this is not as great as what is happening with New55, but is still pretty good; The Impossible Project announced the general availability of their 8×10 instant film solution. The price is quite high, and at first glance the quality still has a long way to go, but it was enough to show that things are moving in the right direction, and that despite the bad news this week, film is not yet dead. I even ended up ordering a box of 10 sheets, to be be shipped Sept 12th, and look forward to the adventure that should be.
As we have now reached the end of the first month of this little exercise it is time to reflect and ponder some questions.
-What is the point?
-Is this costing too much?
-What about the Deardorff?
What is the point?
Well the point is to enjoy photography. And I have to say I am doing that. I am enjoying taking things slowly and trying to find good pictures, not just snapping away and seeing if I get lucky. I am enjoying the moments when I turn on the lights in the darkroom and start pulling negatives out of the fixer. I am enjoying the excuse of this exercise to get people to sit for portraits. I am enjoying working on a single image a day (multiple exposures) and trying to pull the most out of it with the tools at hand.
I am enjoying working with the simple/complex camera that my Bender 4×5 is. Taking time to focus, and shifting the focus around the way you want it. Pushing movements to see when things start to go wrong. Composing in colour, but shooting in black & white.
I may be making lots of mistakes, but I am learning. I am learning not to make operator errors with the camera, but more importantly I think that I am learning to take better pictures. Practise is the key, and practise is what I am getting. Practise in moving slowly and seeing the image before you snap the shutter. Practise talking to real people and getting them to laugh naturally before the lens.
Is this costing too much?
I have self doubts about this exercise, why don’t I just use one of my digital cameras? Or if it has to be film, why not a 35mm camera where 36 exposure only cost $4. I don’t think these doubts can be completely overcome. But I am taking steps to keep costs down, for example I am developing everything myself, and HC-110 is really inexpensive developer.
But ultimately I will watch my costs, and if this costs “too much” I will stop. But in the meantime the results are worth it. The pleasure I get from looking at the prints on my wall makes it seem very worthwhile.
What about the Deardorff?
The Deardorff is not forgotten. The ribs are ready for the Bellows. This exercise has not lessoned my desire to finish the Deardorff. I am looking forward to using the Derdorff itself for this project. To be honest I am overwhelmed by the next step in assembling the bellows. I need pause to practise it in my mind, and I need not rush what is a complex process.
I often feel embarrassed to have people looking at my flickr photo-stream. It is such a hodgepodge of different things, where are the good photos, and what is all this crap?
There are an awful lot of snapshots in my photo-stream. People looking to see whether I am an OK photographer are flooded with:
Hunting trips and trips to the zoo.
Vacation snaps, and the first day of school.
Wedding snaps and trips to African Lion Safari.
Snaps of the kids birthdays, and Christmas concerts.
I could separate photos and mark some as for friends and family only, but honestly most of my friends and family don’t maintain flickr accounts so they wouldn’t get to see the family snapshots meant for them, so that doesn’t work.
Now with my ongoing large format photo of the day project sometimes there will just be plain crappy photos posted. Despite what a lot of photo bloggers may think, you cannot make a good photo every day. Ansel Adams was happy with 12 a year. So since the goal is to get out and shoot, the result is going to be a few good things, a lot of mediocre things, and a few bad things, if I am lucky there will be one or two great ones. They all need to end up posted, or else the framework of this motivation exercise fails.
So be warned, I am still learning, there will be rough spots in the road.
And if you want to skip the crap and snaps, don’t look at any of this year’s submissions or this blog, try some of my “Best of…” sets from recent years past.
Best of 2010
Best of 2009
Best of 2008
Best of 2007
7 Days in,
7 Photos taken, developed, edited, posted, (more than 7 shot)
1 week down!
24 days left for the first month,
358 days left for the full year.
So here we are at day 7. This is proving to be pretty hard. Ignoring the fact that I’m shooting film, and ignoring the fact I am using only large format cameras, and ignoring the fact that so far I have actually developed the film the same day it was shot, this is hard.
Well if we ignore all that what is so hard you may ask.
These days I work at home most days. The morning is busy helping get the kids off to school. When you work in a downtown office you expected to get away from your desk at lunchtime, when you work at home people expect you to be home. When you work downtown you have a walk each day from the train to your office, 10 minutes extra on this walk can take you down completely new paths.
A big factor right now is the length of the days. With the winter solstice just past, by the time I finish work the sun is already setting.
So when do I get to shoot? Well I squeeze it in when I can, and in many cases that is after the kids are in bed. So don’t expect too much street photography, but I’ll see what I can do.
I am enjoying this, and of the 7 photos printed so far, 1 is good, 2 are nice, and none are bad.
Some general thoughts on the process so far, and ahead:
-I don’t plan to always develop and print my film the same day it is shot, this is just the way things have worked out so far.
-I do plan on only posting a photo for a day that was shot on a given day. So if I shoot nothing tomorrow I won’t ever have a photo 8/365. But if I shoot something tomorrow, and develop it tomorrow or next week or next month, then there will eventually be a photo for tomorrow labelled with 8/365.
-While I think I’ll be shooting a lot of Ilford HP5+ and developing in Kodak HC-110, I have other films in the freezer, and plan on using them.
-So far everything has been black and white, there will be some colour coming, and I am planning on getting an E-6 kit from Henry’s and trying it myself.
-Not everything will be scanned film. When I start shooting 8×10 I also plan on contact printing some of them and scanning the prints.
-I picked up a gum bichromate kit last year, which I have not opened yet, and at some point this year I am going to use it, so expect to see some scans of that eventually.