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Thread: 50's/60's Color

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    50's/60's Color

    I've recently been looking at the color photos of Saul Leiter and am really impressed with both the unique compositions and the strong but often muted colors. Any experienced color shooters have advice about achieving these kinds of colors? Is it in the film or does it have more to do with exposure (perhaps underexposure?)? For example:

    http://www.artnet.com/artwork/425111...gh-boards.html

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    1950's and 1960's... although just slightly before my time, I believe the most popular films used was Kodachrome in either 25 or 64 ASA, and Velvia 50. My father used Kodachrome 25... but he was far from a professional. We still have some of his old slides taken in this time frame, and the colors appear quite natural, although some are starting to show some changes due to age.

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    AgX
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    jmal,

    Not exactly a reply to your question. There are two films out of Agfa's current aerial portfolio, C-41, converted to type135 and branded as Rollei.
    Both of them are reported to yield a rather old-time look.

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    Mark Antony's Avatar
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    Agfa 160 portrait used to look old fashioned, especially when over exposed (you can still get it on ebay).
    In the 1990's I tried to emulate a 1950's look and blog about it here:
    http://photo-utopia.blogspot.com/200...4_archive.html

    I low saturation film (Portra NC), coupled with a uncoated lens say on a pre war Bessa will give you the retro look you desire.
    Mark
    PS Glen Velvia 50 was introduced in 1989 and is as far away from the 50's look as you can get!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmal View Post
    I've recently been looking at the color photos of Saul Leiter and am really impressed with both the unique compositions and the strong but often muted colors. Any experienced color shooters have advice about achieving these kinds of colors? Is it in the film or does it have more to do with exposure (perhaps underexposure?)? For example:

    http://www.artnet.com/artwork/425111...gh-boards.html
    Apart from the photographic materials in use which were undoubtedly "of the time", subject matter in urban settings seems to have had an over-emphasis on colour, possibly as the world emerged from the austerity of the war years and America in particular enjoyed a boom. This to me is particularly notable in vehicles, advertisements, clothing, etc., so perhaps it was a combination of film & subject and thus might be difficult to recreate today even with old-style film stock.

    Steve
    (who very narrowly missed being around in the fifties!)

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    Steve, I think you are right about the differences in subject matter. It always seems to me that in the 50's the colors were more basic, yet somehow more vivid or graphic. Now they look like a random scramble of uncoordinated crap. Just my opinion of course.

    One thing Leiter does in a few photos that I could not find online is to make a photo that almost looks BW, but has just a few hints of color, usually a deep blue or something similar. It's a nice approach, I think.

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    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    In the 1950s he was most likely shooting Kodachrome. From what I could find around the net, he didn't actually start printing his early color slides until the 1990s, and the prints seem to be mostly Ilfochrome or Fuji Crystal Archive (which probably means Lambda/LightJet/Chromira, rather than internegative).

    You've still got K64 and Ilfochrome, so that would be a place to start.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

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    Thanks David. Oddly enough, I just bought some K64 before arriving home and reading your post. I'm curious to see how it looks and if I can tell any difference from normal E6 film.

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    Leiter also used expired film (Kodachrome). From one of his exhibition introductions:

    "he often preferred expired color film stock for its more muted hues which typically veered slightly towards the lavender."

    I think his work is marvelous. Another photographer known for her beautifully muted tones was Marie Cosindas, using mostly Polaroid. Her book and Leiter's are my two favorite color photography books.

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    I shot my first color in the mid 50's. Kodacolor, Kodachrome I (asa 10), Ektachrome (X) and a couple of Agfa color products were about the only game at the time at least in the US. Kodacolor exagerated reds and the prints were very unstable meaning they faded quickly. Some of the faded prints are quite beautifulk IMO. Kodachrome had strong colors with exagerated purple blues. Ektachrome was very good for the time but grainy and not very stable. Part of the look was in the lenses used and part in the film itself. Every generation of improvement in film has taken us a big step farther from the nostalgic look of that period. The same can be said for B&W as well as optics. Thae flaws of those emulsions and lenses are what made the beauty of the images. Unfortunately to my knowledge there is no film that looks anything like the 50's and 60's films. Your best solution is to shoot a film you like, scan and manipulate it with the computer.

    With B&W I've had good success with some of the older designed emulsions like Efke 100 processed in Rodinal and Bergger 200 processed in DK-50. I've shot these emulsions in my Graflex 3-1/4x4-1/4 SLR with an uncoated Tessar and my Leica IIIC with 1930's lenses. It comes close when printed on premium FB silver gelatin paper. This is one of the problems with current color. There are no emulsion survivors from the past and processes have gone from E2, E3, E4 to E6 for Ektachrome and color neg is now C-41 rather than C-22. I couldn't even tell you what Kodachrome was in those days but in the later 60's it became K12 when Kodachrome II and Kodachrome X were introduced. My personal favorite from the 60's was Ektachrome Professional in E3 process. One of the all time beautiful color films.

    I have read that Rollei sells a color neg film just for scanning. I think it's called Rollei Scan Film??? It has a very faint orange mask and from what I've read it's more pastel so this might be a possible film if shot with vintage lenses.



 

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