Polaroid type 55 positive negative film. Some of my final images made during a hiking trip in November made on this beautiful 4×5 film which was well past its expiry date by a few years and needed using. The image was processed after I returned from my trip, I seldom developed out the polaroid in the field, rather I used it as a conventional film. I will miss it.
Last weekend I ran a 2 day workshop covering an introduction to 4×5 on the first day, then developing and printing those images in a darkroom on the second day. For some it was the first time they had been inside a darkroom, seen their films developed and enlarged their own photographs and watched them develop in the tray. I suspect that the second day, the darkroom day, is possibly the highlight for most who attend. The first day we are out in the field, learning how to operate the camera in the morning and photographing for the remainder of the day. But the second day brings the whole experience of working with a new format and film, full circle. Yesterday’s photographic ideas and compositions are brought into existence as real silver gelatin prints through the application of standard darkroom procedures. And with that experience comes a new found knowledge about the simple, tangible, controls possible over the film and paper mediums. That experience is something that can be taken with them and applied throughout their photography.
Photography has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and I still marvel at beautiful tonal range of these negatives and the sophisticated technology that underlies its apparent simplicity. Technology is a topic that generally surfaces in one form or another at workshops as comparisons are made between film and digital approaches. One common theme that seems to emerge, is that whilst there will always be new photographic products and technologies enabling faster outcomes and greater volumes, it is not always the speed at which you arrive at a photographic point, but the journey in getting there, because it is in undertaking that journey that you begin to understand. Once you understand this you have the skills to make your own interpretation.