Catalyst

Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25, (C) 2003 K Bjorke Three rolls Neopan Super Presto 1600, Xtol 1+1, 7:30. This photo from the same roll of Rodinal’d Tri-X as the previous shot; made perhaps 20 minutes after that portrait.

A few years ago most of the Japanese anime production business leapt into the digital age. Gone were the inks, gone were the cel painters. Had the quality and cost ratios finally reached the magic level where producers were ready to embrace the future?

No. What happened was that Fuji, makers of many things besides photographic film and Finepix cameras, was also the primary maker of blank animation cels for the Japanese industry. The business was weak, couldn’t bear higher prices, so they shut it down. Bang suddenly digital was a great idea.

There was no nefarious plot to change things, they just made a rational business decision about something that seems like an incidental product but that had ramifications far down the industrial food chain.

I was thinking about this today when I got my latest bundle of neg storage sleeves. I’d been unable to process anything for days, while I had waited for them to arrive from NYC. Such a trivial thing, but what if PrintFile’s owners decided tomorrow that they day of the 7x6 page was over?

People worry about not being able to find film in five years, or ten. That’s not what worries me. Heck, you can still buy Super-8 film.

What worries me is going to be the steady consolidation and loss of infrastructure, until some camel’s back will be broken by a catalytic straw that will force even the diehard film users into resigning themselves to a 100% digital work environment. I expect the day’s not far off when you can’t process black and white unless you do it in a homebrew developer or you use D-76, and the only darkroom equipment you can buy will be third-hand on ebay.

At that point, of course, wet silver processes will finally have dropped into the ranks of daguerreotype and collodion process — a pricey, eccentric fringe art. The worst practitioners will jsut rehash the glories of the past, mired in nostalgia. A few good ones, we can hope, will be still finding new purposes and meaning in their stinky fixer fingers.

1 min read

Retrouvé

Santa Clara. 2003. 85mm, Tri-X, Rodinal. (C) 2003 K Bjorke Three rolls of TMax 100 and another roll of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25. TMax from around 6 minutes, the Tri-X for seven. Out of Rodinal, and out of fast film. Out of negative sleeve pages. Will have to sit tight until the next B&H box appears.

I observed here a while back that when I first started using my Canons, I used to use my 85mm almost exclusively. In recent years, I’ve switched to the wide end and use the 90mm Zeiss very little, stressing the 28mm and 45mm. I’ve been trying to understand/deconstruct what in my own tastes had changed.

Today I shot the latest in a few rolls I’ve been making completely using the 85mm. The experience was magical.

With the rangefinder, the 90mm feels like a real tele, and it’s difficult to use at wide apertures or close (or both). The depth of field can be less than a centimeter, and without much preview.

With the SLR, the 85mm is made for close, tight work. It handles like the 45mm on the Contax. The comfort zone is a quarter-step back but the result still feels intimate without being pushy. Combined with the crispness of Tri-X in Rodinal, it’s a thing of beauty.

1 min read

Slow News Day

Seoul (C)2003 K Bjorke A few days ago, documentary photographer Rob Appleby opined that for him, the photo essay was a dead form, that he’s busy looking into something a bit more meaningful, to Rob himself and hopefully to his audience, whoever they may ultimately be.

Personally, I think there’s rarely such a thing as a truly dead form, not in a general sense. Individual veins may tap out, but the mine stays open.

Schönberg commented, even as he developed his own tonal scale, that there were still many masterpieces yet to be written in the key of C major — what’s true for piano works is surely also true for image-making. A form may feel exhausted to individual practitioners, or perhaps has grown tired from extended rehashing of its own best successes — but there is always the potential for something new, fresh, and meaningful to be drawn from existing forms.

2 min read

Leaks

(C)2003 K Bjorke Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 in Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. One roll of new Tri-X TX400 in Rodinal 1+25, 7 mins. All @ 20C.

You’ve got dust leaks on the CCD, you’ve got wet leaks on the darkroom floor. My friend Joel was knocked flat on his back one morning when ammonia leaked through an aluminum pipe in our movie-film-processor, creating a dizzying gas leak.

You’ve got light leaks in the camera, light leaks in the scanner, light leaks in the drum, light leaks in the film can. I label all my re-useable cans, and if I see a light leak on the negs the can gets tossed.

Had one this morning:

“Sep03v - D@800 - 9/5/03” “Shibuya/Hachiko”,9/5/2003,Auto,f8.0,”Delta 400 Pro”,”G2”,”28mm Biogon”

Leaks around the last three frames, leaks along one edge across the roll. One frame ruined, the rest fine — but no more. Sorry, can “D” — “D” is for “Doom.”

The worst leak of all, though, is a leaky pocket, like the one in my green jacket.

“Aug03z - S@800 - 8/31/03” “Sincheon Food Street, Seoul - Night”,8/31/2003,Auto,f4.5,”Delta 400 Pro”,”G2”,”45mm Planar” “Hacker Membership Discoteque”,8/31/2003,Auto,f4.5,”Delta 400 Pro”,”G2”,”45mm Planar”

Somewhere in Korea, on the floor of New Hacker or Lotte World or somewhere in the gutter along Chamsil-dong, my jacket leaked out completed roll “S” in the wee hours of a Sunday night. The notes and the memories are all I have left. Grrr.

At least it wasn’t a memory card — then again, I might have noticed earlier.

1 min read

The Lesson

(C)2003 Kevin Bjorke When we were in Japan we switched hotels, from a western-styled business hotel to a Japanese-styled urban ryokan. After settling-in I thought to run out around the corner to the local Family Mart for a soda. For the first time in days I left my camera behind with Courtney – I’d only be gone for five minutes, right?

No sooner do I turn that corner outdoors, than a lone guy comes running down the street toward me — black suit, tie, and a horse’s head. He’s shouting and waving at people in an upper-story window across the street as he runs by. Me: no camera.

Today, I think to leave the Contax at home… I’ve got my little Canonet in the desk at work anyway, right? At lunchtime, I jot down to the cafeteria — at the door there’s a guy in a giant furry Shark suit (from the local hockey team). Me: no camera.

I feel an ominous trend developing.

~1 min read