If your photography experience began with digital cameras, or even worse, cell phones, you’ve missed a lot of fun: the magic of pulling a roll of negatives out of the ‘soup,’ as film developer was sometimes called; the magic of watching a black and white print come up and take life under a darkroom safelight; and the real magic, if you’ve ever seen it, of watching color transparencies appear before your very eyes as you souped a roll of Ektachrome in an E-2, E-3, E-4, or E-6 process. And, yes, I’ve used them all.
Sure, fiddling with digital images in Photoshop, without breathing chemical fumes in the dark, can be a far more pleasant a way of creating pictures, but Photoshop is a bag of cheap tricks compared to the real photo magic that took place in even a makeshift darkroom.
No matter how many times I did it, and over the years I have hand processed hundreds and hundreds of rolls of Ektachrome and other transparency film, I never tired of watching my color images start to take form in the bleach and finally take life in the fixer, as the layer of silver salt on which they were based was dissolved away.
But having been away from it for a while, I was pleasantly surprised to find signs of life in the film photography world, especially after Kodachrome, the standard of stock photography, and now Ektachorme, are no more.
The first sign came a few months ago when I was going through some old mail and found a nearly 25 year old refund check in excess of $100 from Freestyle Sales Company, a California-based photo supply company dealing with film, paper, and photographic chemistry.
I did a search online and found that they were still in business, now as Freestyle Photo, so I emailed them with a scan of the check and asked if they could possibly reissue it — it was dated 1988 — or allow me credit for the amount, which they did.
So thinking of possibly setting up a black-and-white darkroom, once again, and printing up some of my old negatives, and maybe even doing some new work in black-and-white, I placed an order that included the refund amount and maybe $50 more, for halide — that’s silver chloride and silver bromide — photographic paper as well as a supply of film and paper chemistry with which to begin my B&W project.
Yes, in the world of Freestyle Photo, film photography appears to be flourishing, as their website and catalog clearly show.
The second sign came more recently.
Doing stock photography, I had over the years accumulated quite a bit of film that was cold-stored in the basement freezer.
No longer using any of it — I did sell off the Kodachrome a few years ago but held on to the Ektachrome, Fujichrome, and other transparency films as well as the black and white which were pretty much forgotten — I decided to offer it on eBay, only to find that most of it was the easiest thing I have sold, there, in quite a while.
There were buyers from the USA, but people from Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Germany, England, and elsewhere, were clamoring for Fujichrome, Ektachrome, Agfachrome, and even Scotchchrome transparency films.
In short, it’s good to know there are still real photographers out there, not just digital picture makers.
Real photography, that is film photography, will never make a comeback, but it looks as if it will continue to be an art form for many years to come.
~ Larry Stepanowicz