Black & White Film:
A Craft That Will Last – Part One
CCforP Staff Photography Instructor Douglas Carr Cunningham makes the case that analog Black and White Film is the creative photographer’s choice for a permanent record of legacy photography.
I give the French the credit for black and white photography. So should you.
In 1827 Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first photograph with the camera obscura by exposing the first Black and White image for 8 hours onto a metal plate. It was essentially sensitized asphalt, but a real photograph, nonetheless. Niepce's buddy, Louis Daguerre, developed the sensitized silver-based daguerreotype in 1839. Real photography, as we know it, was born.
Today, millions of photographers are still using silver-based Black and White Film to document their surroundings, or to reveal their souls with photographic art. It is challenging, considering the current convenience of digital photography; but Black and White Film is not dead, yet, and it will not die. If anything, there is a current resurgence of pros and amateurs choosing to shoot film. 162-year-old daguerreotypes have survived the passage of time. Will your important digital images survive as well?
I am now shooting black and white film more than I do digital. Kodak T-Max 400 is loaded up in my 31-year-old Pentax LX. Previous rolls have yielded terrific negatives that I know will last for decades or more. When I say last, I mean they won’t fade. They won’t disappear. I am thinking of my photo legacy. You know what I mean
Digital photography is here to stay, and nobody disputes that. In the late 1990s when film photography ruled the roost, there was a reluctance to embrace digital photography for important work. Digital photos looked, well, like digital-computer-stuff, not real. Digital is now the more convenient workhorse media, while film usage has declined. Film image quality was supposedly surpassed by digital technology. Whoopee! We are riding the crest of the digital photography wave. We will never go back to the way it was!
Well, almost never. It is time dedicated, creative photographers like you should once again take up the old Nikon F, Pentax, Canon FT, Leica 35mm, and maybe the medium format and 4x5 film beasts, to not only embrace the old ways of photography, but to find a new creative outlet. You (we) are pursuing the fun of a digital photo fantasy. You may consider Black and White Film Photography a grounded, analog, physical backup to the virtual, computer and software-based work you now do. In short, BW Film and Digital should co-exist, not one favored over the other. NOTICE: I DID NOT MENTION COLOR FILM (it fades!).
I want you to try something old, yet new; that is Black and White silver-based photography on film. There are valid reasons why today’s photographer should continue to include BW in their talent box. I will list them in my next blog.
The Charleston Center for Photography has restored the traditional black and white film lab. Our first Black and White Film Shooters Workshop is March 23-24-25. Sign-up! Space is limited. Contact The Charleston Center for Photography, 843-720-3105.
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