Turn and face the strange
Don’t want to be a richer man
Turn and face the strange Ch-ch-changes Just gonna have to be a different man Time may change me But I can’t trace time
– David Bowie
It’s been a while since I made a posting, due to my having guests staying with me for several weeks, but the last of the visitors have left to go home today. Now let’s see if I can get back to my old schedule of making blog posts again. I will try to do so.
I’m going to start off today by writing about something that happened fairly early in 2010 and is having a tremendous effect on my photography – and definitely not in a good way. I’ve been thinking about making a post about this for a while so now seems like a good time.
I was reading an e-mail sent out by the noted landscape photographer John Sexton, and he was writing that Kodak had announced that it was discontinuing production of its TriX320 film in both the 120 and 220 sizes. This was the film that I used, and I used the 220 size. In fact, it was the only black & white film still being produced in the 220 size.
A lot of people shoot with 120 film, but I wasn’t one of them. Quite honestly, I pretty much hate 120 film. On my 6×7 cm cameras, there are only 10 shots on a roll of 120. I used 220 because it had 20 frames per roll. When I first started using medium format cameras, I used Ilford 400 Delta Pro in the 220 size. Then Ilford “reformulated” the film and discontinued 220 production of it. So, I switched to Ilford HP5 (another 400 speed film) in the 220 size. Guess what? Ilford then stopped making HP5 in the 220 size.
Therefore, I switched once again, this time to the only 220 BW film around: TriX320. I prayed and prayed and prayed that Kodak would keep making it in 220, but as you’ve read, they decided to stop doing so last year.
Quite honestly, I really can’t understand why someone would want to use a film that has only 10 shots on it as compared to 20. I mean, with 35 mm film, don’t you prefer a roll of 36 rather than 24? My theory is that a lot of people buy Hasselblads that come with a 120 back, and they never get a 220 back because it’s just too damned expensive. Then there are pros who have multiple cameras or multiple camera backs and their assistants simply hand them another camera or back loaded with film when a roll is finished.
When I read the news, I went to the two big camera stores in New York to get as much 220 TriX as I could, but I was too late. The news had gotten out earlier and all of the 220 was sold out. Kodak had said that it would be distributing the last rolls of the 220 that it would produce, so I called some camera stores to place orders for as much as I could get. I was told that they had more orders than they expected to get film, but in the end, I was told that Kodak never sent any film to the stores at all!
Later, I tried another, lesser known camera store in New York, and I was in luck there: it still had a few dozen rolls of the 220 film, so I just bought it all up and put it in the fridge.
I made the decision at the time to save the 220 film for my travel photography, as I can only carry so much with me when I go away and I wanted to have as much as I could. I had more than enough for my trip to Japan last year, and even had enough for my trip to Vietnam this year. However, all I’ve got left are half a dozen rolls of 220, and when those are used – well, the well has run dry.
In the meantime, I’ve been using 120 film for my art nude photography, as I can carry enough rolls of even 120 film for a few hours work. I had to decide what to use to replace the TriX, so I considered three choices: Kodak’s TriX 400, Ilford’s HP5 and Fuji’s Neopan 400. I decided to go with the Fuji for one simple reason: it was the least expensive of the three.
Shortly after that decision was made and I started using it, guess what? I read that Fuji was discontinuing production of Neopan 400! So, I’m now using the HP5 once again – and hopefully for some time to come.
I have to say this about having to switch to 120 film: it is a lose-lose situation. First, I have to change film every 10 shots, which is really awful. I’m working with a model, we’ve got a rhythm going and boom!!!- time to change film. Even the models have gotten annoyed by having to deal with this.
Of course, I can only imagine what it’s going to mean when I go travelling. I now need to carry twice as much film with bme as before to have the same number of pictures. I used to be able to carry a maximum of 72 rolls of 220 film in my carry-on bag. As 120 film is a bit thinner than 220, I may be able to squeeze 84 rolls in, but that is much less than the 144 rolls that I would need to match what I get with 220.
Then there’s having to deal with changing film so often. It’s one thing when I’m with a model and I can control the situation, but when travelling, situations worth photographing can pass very quickly and a lot can be missed by stopping to change. When I’m travelling on my own, I can still set my own schedule and do things when I want, but if I’m with a group, I may not even have time to change film at all!
Now let’s consider developing the film. It takes the same amount of time and costs about the same in chemicals to develop a roll of 220 as it does a roll of 120. My tank holds three rolls, so instead of developing 60 pictures in one session, I can now only do 30. (Jobo used to make reels that held two rolls of 120 film each, but those are long gone. How I wish I’d gotten that system when I could have.)
Therefore, it will now take twice as much time and cost twice as much money to develop the same number of shots as before. It’s a situation where I need to shoot half the number of pictures as before to maintain the same time and cost for developing. If I shoot the same number of photos, it will cost twice as much and take twice the time.
Heck, I’m even thinking of farming out my travel photos to a lab to develop them for me when I come back from a long trip with dozens and dozens of rolls of film. Sure, it’ll save me the time, but it’ll cost a lot more than developing even the new way.
As I said, this is definitely a lose-lose situation. Nonetheless, I have absolutely no plan to go digital. I would rather go back to using 35 mm equipment than do that.
On the subject of cost, let’s get to printing. I used to print photos regularly from 1998 to 2003, but then I stopped for various reasons. I’m now trying to get back into printing in a darkroom on a regular basis once again, and that means buying photographic paper.
In the days before my hiatus, I used Forte’s Polygrade variable contrast paper. It used to cost about $50 for a 50 sheet box of 11×14 inch fiber paper. Sadly, that paper isn’t made any more, so I’ve switched to Ilford Multigrade, which costs nearly $100 for an 11×14 box of 50 when you include the tax. So, that’s another big expense I have to incur, in addition to the extra cost for developing.
As I’ve written before, the ultimate goal of my photography is to make beautiful prints, so I will continue to buy the paper. Still, you can see how much my costs have gone up recently, and my income from income selling photographs has not gone up – especially considering that I haven’t been able to sell any!
Well, something just had to give, and now it has. From now on, I will only be working with models on a Time for Prints basis. I just can’t afford to pay models and pay for all of the other stuff, considering that photography is just an avocation for me. If I can start selling prints at some time in the future, that may change, but for now, it’s TFP only.
When I say ‘prints,’ though, I mean it. If a model wants to work with me for half a day, she’ll get two 11×14 exhibition grade fiber prints that I’ll make in a darkroom. Some photographers may just give models pictures on a CD, and if a model is happy with that, well that’s fine. Still, a bunch of computer files on a CD is not a work of art. What I will give is.
Quite honestly, I really would prefer to pay models. Many more models will be willing to work with me that way, and once I fork over the dough, my responsibility has ended. I still would try to send scans to the model as a courtesy, but it is just that and not a responsibility. Working TFP, making and sending the prints is a responsibility, and it’s something I’d rather not have to live with.
Still, as long as the situation remains as it is, it’s something I’m willing to undertake.
As for photos, with my visitors staying with me I haven’t had the time to scan any new images, so today, enjoy some photos of one of my favorite models from the past, Rhowena, as photographed out in the Nevada desert.
About Dave Rudin
Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.