Film Slides Away

The announcement by Kodak, reported by the BJP,  that they are to discontinue Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100G, Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100VS Film and Kodak Professional Elite Chrome Extra Color 100 means an end to their E6 colour film line, though the production of Portra, Ektar and other colour negative films and their black and white films will continue while demand keeps up.

On the Kodak UK shop site it states : ‘We estimate that, based on current sales pace, supplies … are expected to be available in the market for the next six to nine months; however, inventories may run out before then, depending on demand.‘ If some buy stocks of these materials to put in the fridge for later they may well run out faster, though this may not be a sensible idea. I’ve got stocks of various outdated photographic materials in a large cupboard here that I can’t quite bring myself to throw away, including over a thousand sheets of 8×10 colour and black and white papers. Perhaps one day I’ll feel like going in the darkroom again and it might just be usable, but I think both are unlikely.

Kodak were one of the pioneers of colour photography with their Kodachrome introduced in 1935 and discontinued in 2009. Ektachrome came out in the 1940s, at first with the E1 process. Later versions of the process, E4 and finally E6 became the standard colour negative process for virtually all manufacturers, and Kodak are continuing the production of E6 chemicals, though I always found their products highly over-priced compared with the competition, at least for low volume users.

Of course those who have a particular need for transparency film or are of a peculiarly masochistic bent can still buy and use slide film, something I largely abandoned in the mid-1980s. Fuji have been making better film than Kodak since then, and Kodak have only really been kept in the business by a curious consumer loyalty to the yellow box, perhaps fuelled in America by a kind of jingoistic protectionism that insists that US products are always the best. But then why is anyone still using film?

Doug Menuez tried to give a reason a few years back in a piece called The Zen of Film vs Digital Gratification. If like he apparently does you feel your work in digital somehow lacks lustre you might buy his argument, but I’m of the opinion that my work has improved with digital. But I almost never work in the way that he suggests photographers do with digital:

But while you have your head down checking the LCD guess what? You just missed your pulitzer. That LCD is crack. You just can’t get enough. We all want instant gratification and here you have it. Bliss. Yet the act of constantly checking the back of the camera is taking your head out of the game.”

I get far too involved in taking pictures to do much checking on the LCD while I’m busy taking them. I try to remember to occasionally take a quick peek to check I’m not really messing things up, but the first time I seem most of my pictures on the back of the camera is after I think I’ve finished the job. Often not until I’m sitting on a train on my way home. The main exception is when I’m photographing speakers at events, where  a single button press will zoom in on the eyes I’ve focussed on and let me check the person didn’t blink. There is a point in checking because most speakers are fairly repetitive in their gestures and you can usually re-make the image.

So I don’t share Menuez’s attitude to digital. It isn’t actually about the medium but about how he has chosen to use it. I welcome the new things it makes possible, but haven’t let it change me in the way he suggests.

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