Dear APUG members,
I find this dialog about the availability of Tri-X and the continuing availability of cameras, film, etc., interesting, and would like to add to it. Due to my position as editor of Photovision I have to be careful what I say, and begin this by informing you that the following is only my opinion
I am in a unique position to monitor the trends in the photo industry. Not only as an editor, but also as a photographer dedicated to film for 33 years. I have been watching the trends for years prior to editing PV. I have seen fads come and go. Digital is not a fad, but here to stay and here is my opinion:
The problem we face is not how many of us there are who want to use film or how much better film capture and printing is over digital. Nobody but a relative handful of photographers cares if film quality is better than digital, and if digital is self-limiting and will never surpass film.
The problem is the motivation of the manufacturers, who will ultimately decide whether or not cameras, film and paper will be available in the years to come, and the rush by school photography programs away from film and into digital.
Let me start with something that occurred at PhotoPlus Expo in NY in 2001. At the time, this appeared to me as a portent of things to come. Eastman Kodak had their usual presence at the front of the Javitts Center. A huge, yellow booth. The outside was covered with large photographs which proudly proclaimed they were all made using Kodachrome slide film. Entering the booth, I could not locate a single roll of film! The entire presentation was digital.
From almost the beginning, Kodak has supported fine art photography through generous grants and funding. Since at least the 1960s, Kodak has been a big supporter of fine art workshops. Now Kodak only funds programs aimed at the professional photographer (studio, weddings, etc.) or programs that teach digital imaging. No fine art. No black and white. No film or darkroom.
Until 1984, Kodak maintained the largest research lab for silver-based photography, in the world. The most brilliant minds working on film, paper, chemistry, color and b/w worked there. Many began with little or no background in photo chemistry. Instead, older generations of photo researchers would take the neophytes under their wing and impart to them their lifetime of learning and knowledge. It was a great and unique system that actually worked.
In 1984 a new CEO took over Kodak with a new vision: Digital was the future. Film was passť. The first thing to go was the research lab. Somewhere between 30 and 40 of the finest photo chemists in the world were let go, through early retirement, etc. Left were about 4 or 5 researchers, who have slowly been replaced with ďwet behind the earsĒ graduates from RIT with little or no background in photo chemistry and no one to mentor them. In their place Kodak hired several thousand engineers to create digital imaging products.
Since 1984 Kodak has lost billions and billions of dollars on digital. Really. Billions and billions. What keeps them in business is their worldwide sales of film and paper, color and b/w. Not U.S. sales...worldwide. Kodak sells enough to fund billions of dollars of losses in digital and still show a profit.
The thinking at Kodak is that digital is the future, and they want to dominate the digital world as they have the film world. Bully for Kodak, you say? The problem is that Kodak is a Fortune 500 company (thanks to film and paper) and when the Wall Street Journal, or anyone else interested in economic indicators, wants to know which way the wind blows, the pat answer from Kodak is ďfilm is dead, digital is the future.Ē This has a chilling effect on how both established and start-up companies invest, and whom they will invest in, which affects us directly.
If upper management had itís way, Kodak would discontinue all silver-based products this very day. Fortunately for us, they canít do that, for the reasons cited above. Fortunately for us also, as long as they make a profit off silver-based products they will continue to produce them. But any excuse to discontinue a film or paper will be taken. In other words, Kodakís loyalty to film is only lip service. Their film, paper, and D-76 sell around the world (Asia, South America, etc.) without any effort on their part, so they continue to produce them.
The point here is: Kodak is not your friend. Every time you purchase a roll of T-Max youíre supporting the end of film photography. As John Sexton says, regarding his non-use of RC papers, we talk with our dollars.
Thatís Kodak. What about Ilford? In 1995 a friend of mine at Ilford told me that Ilford was losing money on b/w film and paper, and had been for years (the opposite of Kodak). The only reason Ilford still manufactured film and paper was...tradition. Theyíd done it for so long, they didnít know how to quit! (Weíre talking the parent company, Ilford UK, not Ilford US, which is only a distributor.)
As a result of itís devotion to b/w products Ilford nearly went under. Then inkjet came along. Inkjet paper and inks have literally saved Ilford (and Luminous Paper Co., remember them?). The problem for us is, they no longer need to make b/w materials. The problem for us, in my opinion, is that Ilford films and papers are among the finest in the world.
My suggestion is to stop buying Kodak films and papers and start supporting Ilford. It may be too little too late, but I still say speak with your pocketbook. If Ilford stops making film, buy Agfa, Forte, Fomapan, or Efke. Tell Kodak we donít need them, and their little dog, too.
Agfa is another situation. I donít know much about Agfa in Europe, but Agfa in the US almost canít give away their film and paper. You may or may not have noticed, but Agfa has not placed an ad for b/w materials in a magazine for over 3 years, they canít afford to. On the other hand, Agfa papers are at least as good as Ilfordís. Agfa APX 100 developed in Rodinal is an unbeatable combination. But if they canít sell the stuff, thereís no use in continuing to make it.
The difference, to me, between Kodak, Ilford, and Agfa, is that Kodak is actively trying to stamp out film, whereas Ilford and Agfa would like to support film, but canít compete with Kodak and the dwindling market.
Thatís the film end. Then there is the camera end. As it turns out, digital cameras are less expensive to make, per unit, than film cameras. Not only that, but digital cameras make a 20% profit, whereas film cameras make less than 10% (sometimes less than 5%).
Now, if you were Nikon or Canon, which would you want to make and sell? Film (10% profit) or Digital (20% profit)? Hmmmm. Thatís a toughie. Let me think about it.
Neither Nikon, Canon, Minolta, or anyone else wants to promote film cameras anymore. You will hardly find an ad for one.
The head of Minolta loves Photovision and believes in what we are trying to do, support photographers by publishing their portfolios and book reviews. He has a subscription.
But Minolta doesnít have an ad for a current film camera and it would cost approximately $50,000 to produce one (the staff at PV could produce an ad for $2,000 but then Minolta would be sued by their ad agency). If they did have an ad, they probably wouldnít sell six film cameras in todayís market. Everyone is snatching up used Hasselblads and Leicas on E-bay.
So, in order to support PV, Minolta placed a full page ad in three consecutive issues for their digital cameras. Ostensibly, Minolta claimed the ads were to entice film photographers who might want to purchase a point-and-shoot digital camera. The real reason was to help PV out.
There was such a hue and cry from some of our readers (one not only cancelled his subscription and wrote a nasty post to the PV forum, which you can still read, but also convinced a number of his friends to cancel their subscriptions, each friend sending in even nastier letters) that I could no longer accept Minoltaís ad, to the detriment of our already tenuous cash flow.
Then there are the schools. Photo instructors throughout the U.S. are embracing digital technology. Many of them, and I speak as a member-in-good-standing of The Society of Photographic Educators (SPE), are burned out on teaching film and darkroom.
Many of them are having a blast with the new technology, provided to them by Apple and special incentive programs from Adobe. I mean, after years of mixing chemicals in a dark, wet room, with out-of-alignment enlargers, and baby-sitting kids who are taking photography 101 as an elective, wouldnít you rather see the school gut the darkroom, paint the walls white, put in some windows, and 20 new Apple computers?
Many schools, even when the teachers want to continue teaching film and darkroom, are pushing to replace the wet darkroom with the digital light room. Instead of paying for HazMat chemical removal and maintaining OSHA standard darkrooms, all the schools need to do is worry about eye strain and butt spread.
The other side of this equation is that the MTV Generation, raised on computers and 3 minute sound-bytes, are demanding to learn digital imaging. Nobody, nobody is demanding to learn darkroom techniques.
Then there are workshops. Film based workshops, particularly technical workshops such as large format, Zone System, darkroom, etc., canít get enough students to break even. On the other hand, there is standing room only for Adobe Photoshop workshops.
Finally, there are the enlarger manufacturers. Like Agfa paper, they canít give enlargers away. If someone wants to start a darkroom, they can have their pick of everything from a DeVere 8x10" enlarger to a Besler Printmaker 5, with the sink thrown in, for almost the cost of shipping. Just go to E-bay. Beseler is struggling to survive by selling camera bags (as is everyone else, including JOBO, Omega, Tiffen/Saunders, etc.). Hasselblad is on the brink. Leica likewise.
And, I have to say it, I can barely get 20 APUG members to subscribe to Photovision, which for three years has been the lone voice promoting film and darkroom.
And I havenít even mentioned the trend by news publications and commercial photographers to embrace digital. You can see that one for yourself.
That leaves Third World photographers in South America and India using b/w film, photographers in China using color film, and fine art photographers in the U.S. using b/w (many fine art photographers already accustomed to having a lab develop and print their work donít see a problem with digital imaging; in fact, theyíre elated they can cut the lab out).
There is much more I could write, but in my personal opinion, of all the problems facing film photographers, the two that we have to fear most are Eastman Kodak and the schools. Eastman because of itís enmity towards silver-based processes, and the power it wields; the schools because without education, the current generation of film users will be the last.
The Darkroom Cookbook
The Variable Contrast Printing Manual
The Film Developing Cookbook
The Nude at Big Sur
Whew, I am glad as Hell I am old man and will not live to see the total demise of film. I already give my support to Ilford as I have moved nearly all my business to Ilford. Kodak really doesn't have much for me these days. I don't know if I was counted in the 20 from APUG as I subscribed via the website. Hang in there.
I too use mostly Ilford and Forte products. Big Yellow doesn't have much left for me besides HC110. On another note, has anyone checked out the Anseladams.com workshop page? I think Ansel is prol rolling over in his grave.
I took one of the AA workshops in December. We were told that ansel would love digital. That was an asumption made by a person who had little if any contact with the man.
On the other hand, doesn't that book the darkroom cookbook written by some obscure person (lol) have a formula for making a developer like hc110?
Well, now I am depressed.....:?
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Received today my free copy of PV (less than a week after my request); and I've read most of articles - great stuff. Will send in subscription next week. A few comments: I only got back into photography about year ago thanks to helping my wife while she took a photo course at local college. The course was b&w with darkroom work. Previously, I'd tried digital but was unimpressed with results - ok for snapshots. I currently do use digital prints for enlargements (scanned from film negatives); but will trend towards darkroom as my work inproves enough to merit a silver print. Just received a "yellow" box of Azo paper today; & will try some contact printing this weekend. All this is to say that if you tried to tailor a magazine to my workflow, PV would be just another general purpose photography mag. Skip trying to be all things to all photographers; and continue to do what you do best. Photographers don't just read one magazine .
I agree with Steve's assessment of analogue imaging. I think as time goes on this is all going to shake out with one major manufacturer for color film, probably only 35mm and one or two smaller manufacturers who will produce B&W. What I fear is that we will see the end of ULF film and possibly everything 5x7 and above.
As far as paper goes, the choices will be narrowed down to 2 or 3 smaller manufacturers with a limited number of papers available. On the other hand if Kodak and Ilford no longer produce paper, it may open up the market for some new niche producers.
As far as chemistry, except for HC110, there is virtually nothing that cannot be made from raw materials easily obtainable.
OTOH, I see posts every week on photonet by people wanting to get into 4x5 and guys uisng 4x5 or 8x10 wanting to get into ULF cameras. Someone is buying all that used LF gear on Ebay and I don't think it is all collectors putting it on a shelf to look at.
So I guess I don't see the end of analogue, but I do see a vast reduction in tools and resources as well as an increasing cost for materials. Time will tell. If you read posts in the photonet archive from 3 yrs ago you would believe that the last film in the world would have been exposed by now.
So I guess I don't see the end of analogue
There is still a great interest and I suppose the manufacturers are unable to judge the degree of continuance of this in the materials curently available. New papers and developers are still being produced and, of course, we are doing our little bit. What is happening is that the whole area is being expanded by bringing in this 'other method' of image making.
I lent my free copy of PV to a fellow photographer and as soon as I get it back or he gets his own (!), I shall take out a sub. It is very similar to the old Camera & Darkroom magazine, whose demise is mourned by me.
This thread has really struck a note with me. I'm only just beginning to realize the joys of working with b/w film and have just started in the darkroom. I wasted too much time with digital this and digital that.
As soon as I finish typing I'm off to submit my subscription.
For me, at least, subscribing to a magazine not printed over here (Brazil) means paying more on posting than the magazine cover price, or waiting a long and unpredictable time for surface mail.
This may be true to many on the international audience you may have.
Have you considered an electronic copy of the magazine (as you do with old numbers on your site)?