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Thread: Film is Racist

  1. #1
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Film is Racist

    Over at Buzzfeed, there is a very long article on how Kodak color negative film is/was racist.

    I $h!t thee not...
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
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    MartinCrabtree's Avatar
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    If you seek the bogeyman under every bed he will indeed be found there.

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    sorry

    I am sorry but I am too busy with the Flat Earth Society site I have no time for anything else.

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    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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    That is the silliest claim I ever heard of.

    One of the guys I worked with was African American and we worked hard to balance all skin tones. Our normal photos included a gamut of skin and hair tones in order to capture all tones possible. We had redheads, blondes, brunettes and black hair. We had mail and female and even included people with acne (yes, we did).

    This was in an effort to preclude such claims.

    IDK when the policy started.

    PE

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    I think the actual content of the article is reasonable; the thesis isn't "Kodak film is racist", but "Kodak film sucks at dark skin", which at least is a sensible claim---I'll leave it to people who actually shoot C-41 to argue whether it's true or not.

    Also, if it was in fact normal practice for commercial labs to balance skin tones based on a "white" reference image---the "Shirley card" described in the article---you can see where that would, in fact, make a trainwreck of images of dark skin. We have plenty of color print photographers represented here, some of whom undoubtedly have worked with a whole range of skin colors, and I think it'd be interesting to hear their thoughts on the subject.

    Come to think of it, I did shoot a bit of print film with dark-skinned (though not African-descended, except inasmuch as we all are) subjects in Fiji. As far as I remember, Kodak Gold of the early 21st century did OK in that context, with full-sun outdoor lighting.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
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    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

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    Seems all the photographs featuring darker skins were amateurish outdoor photographs and very over-exposed where as others were professionally taken studio photographs....

    Not even a fair comparison.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

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    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Every single family photo I have from the 70s-80s has some problem with either the color balance, exposure, and print density. Even those that look like they might have been made by a reasonably diligent lab tech have now shifted so much that it's hard to tell how they looked originally.

    The unrelenting drive to politicize everything from education to sports and now color negative film is a thoroughly disgusting trend. A reasonable person might attribute these problems to such things as cheap plastic cameras with cheap plastic lenses, shutter speeds that could vary wildly, crappy flashbulbs, drugstore processing and printing by low paid, poorly trained techs, etc. But that would require one to have an inherent sense that other people are honorable and not all predisposed to malevolence.
    Last edited by ParkerSmithPhoto; 05-01-2014 at 04:23 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
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    jovo's Avatar
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    @ Parker Smith....Just looked at your website...gorgeous work! The encounter with Emmit Gowin on your blog is a terrific story.
    John Voss

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    What absolute rubbish. It's down to the ability of the photographer.....my parents had a white cat and a black dog, and it was quite difficult to get nicely toned pictures of either of them, particularly in harsh sunlight No doubt a professional photographer would have done better than my schoolboy efforts, but, even then, I didn't think to blame the film for my lack of darkroom skill and experience!

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    I know where the claim got started. But I won't get into that here, cause I like you guys and will steer away from my rants about that side of the aisle. I'm not a bit surprised; not one bit. The saga continues.

    Edit: Back in the early 80's I was a PCA photographer, shooting in the discount houses and department stores. We had one big main light reflector bowl about 3 feet in diameter, pointed right at the subject. The film was long rolls of Kodak negative film in big motorized Mamiya cameras with twin-lenses. There was no focus, only beam-lights and we scooted the posing cart to and fro to get the beams line up on the kids. I shot as many of the black children as the whites. The black children came out beautiful. It's all in the lighting. Kodak film is perfect.

    Another edit: the trick to shooting dark-skinned black people is to blast their faces out with full frontal lighting. The work turns out perfect.
    Last edited by Tom1956; 05-01-2014 at 05:34 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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