Saturday, November 22, 2008


I’m currently suffering from photographer’s block so it seemed as good a time as any to write about what I’m currently unable to do. I kind of anticipated that I’d end up abandoning the blog (didn’t imagine it would be for four months though) when I began developing my own b/w film at the start of August. Then came the caffenol experiments, and then trying my hand at developing color film in b/w chemicals as well as in coffee. By early September, I was feeling brave enough to try my hand at developing color film (both negative and slide film) at home. And I have to say, I’m not sure that I would ever send film out for development again. It’s not that my results are better, more even or more consistent than the lab’s. I know, for instance, I’m a really poor agitator and the way I treat/handle negatives would probably horrify people at the lab.

That said, I love the process. All of them. While it’s great not having to wait the week or so to have the lab mail the developed negatives back to me (and while I’ve saved a boat-load of money developing film at home), what I enjoy most is my ability to participate in (note that I didn’t say control) the overall process. From film to reel, reel to tank, to the heating (or cooling) of water, chemicals, homebrews, etc.—I get to participate. And, yes, (however inconsistent or sloppy my methods may be), I also get to agitate. That said, I was overjoyed to learn about stand development and Rodinal—spool it, tank it, mix it, leave it for an hour or two. . .minimal agitation.

As for the cost. I figured out my savings a couple of times while I was standing there over-agitating some film. When I’d send b/w to the lab, it was 10 bucks per roll (i.e., of 120 film) plus tax and shipping. 120 color was 5 bucks a roll, plus tax, shipping and handling. The 5 liter Tetenal C41 kit cost me 80-90 bucks, including shipping. Each liter develops 16-20 rolls of color film. At roughly 18 bucks a liter, my cost per roll is about a buck. The savings with b/w is ridiculous whether I’m using coffee or a chemical developer. There’s the cost of the fix in either case but that’s also ridiculously low. Of course being able to develop at home means that I’m buying, shooting, and developing more film than I would if I were still sending things to the lab, but I’m still guessing my costs are much lower than they were when, mid-June or so, I started experimenting with film.

But back to photographer’s block. It’s not that I don’t have the desire to shoot and develop more film—it’s more a matter of not having much of anything I want to photograph. When I was in the camera testing/test roll phase, it made sense to shoot the same stuff again and again so that I could compare cameras as well as development techniques. This was also true as I would test out different films. But it’s been awhile since I’ve purchased any vintage (i.e., new to me) cameras, so it makes little sense to keep shooting the same subject matter as a kind of point of comparison.

To this end, I’ve thought about (and am still thinking about) what I might do to make the familiar strange or to make the same-ole, same-ole look somewhat new/different. Last week I shot a couple rolls of film on/around campus, trying to find ways to make myself see the surroundings (or the potential of those surroundings) in new ways. One set was taken with the Smena (see first four photos below) and the other with the Smena 8m (see last five photos below) as both cameras allow me to double, triple or even quadruple expose the film. Nothing terrifically exciting here. I’m decidedly in a content/location rut, looking forward to my next opportunity to travel—to photograph something besides what’s found at home, in the yard/woods or on campus.

No comments: