Film come back restricted by manufacturers

PUBLISHED: 19:20 20 September 2016 | UPDATED: 19:20 20 September 2016

As the popularity of film is on the increase its availability is being reduced

The digital revolution has certainly taken over the world of photography but purists and enthusiasts alike are rekindling their interest and passion for film. Manufacturers like Fujifilm are constantly cutting back on their available film stocks from 35mm to large format material, increasing the prices as they go. Reducing the bulk buying options leaves you buying in threes and twos whereas in the past I would buy a box of 20 films 36ex, or a tin of 100ft and bulk load myself.

The instant imaging provided by smartphones to DSLRs has created an age of photographers who have little or no interest in the craft and simply check their screens to see if the camera has taken a good photograph. A little knowledge of how the process works to include an understanding of basic lighting, the relationship between shutter speeds and apertures, and the use of differing focal lengths of lenses would go a long way to enlightening more than a few users and perhaps enhance their results.

Film is a slower process and more restricted. 35mm film, generally of 36 exposures, focuses the mind to be more deliberate and knowing the cost of processing, in addition to the cost of the film in the first place, creates a framework around which I have worked for many years. My training started many years ago when my first chief photographer would allow me to take three frames per assignment unless it was to be a feature. One upright and one landscape and another in case someone’s eyes were shut.

I have never processed colour film myself as the control is much more exact compared to B&W processing and time is still a restriction as even breaking all the rules in the book a print would still take around 8 minutes compared to the instant ability to have it sent around the world digitally.

Even at 8 minutes it would require fast processing by heating the developer solution to create a 4 minute process, 30 second fixing, dip wash, and into the enlarger to print wet. The black and white print processed in hot developer, fixed momentarily and dipped into a bath of methylated spirit so that the print dried quickly.

Indeed, the process of transmitting the print back to the office, or worldwide required heavy equipment where the print was put onto a drum and scanned with the signal being sent analogue down a phone line providing you had made connection with the receiver telling them an image was on the way.

I still miss the old magic of the processes, working with silver halides, chemicals and that bit of alchemy which made you feel part of the creation of something special using a process little changed from the days of the founders of photography, Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre.

A great quote from an article on Petapixel, from Sarah Coleman of The Literate Lens writing about Pablo Inirio, the master darkroom printer who works at Magnum Photos; “Over the last fifteen years, almost every photographer I’ve interviewed has waxed poetic about that “magical” experience of seeing an image develop in chemicals for the first time. You have to wonder whether today’s young photographers will rhapsodize as much about the first time they color-calibrated their monitors.”

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