I rarely use color film because I prefer photographing with black and white film and Ilford HP5+ is my black and white film of choice. I do love the look of Kodak Ektar and Portra for color films, but I just don’t reach for them much.
This week I was reading about work made made Fred Herzog, a great street photographer who documented Vancouver in the 1950s on, and was only discovered at age 75. His work on Kodachrome blew people away it was so good. That and I suspect the element of time helped–looking back at places from earlier times, the old cars and buildings and signs, there’s just something romantic or intriguing about that. It’s true for Vivian Maier and it’s true for Fred Herzog.
But the thing that really impressed me about Fred’s work was his unwillingness to use color negative film, instead relying on the consistency and unique look of Kodachrome. The film is legendary. The film no longer exists and photographers the world over wish it did, it was just that good. But, it was discontinued in 2010 due to the fact that it’s a black and white film with color dyes injected in the developing process which is both difficult and environmentally unfriendly nowadays.
So, he used color slide film and would host public slide shows of his work, “gallery shows” he essentially set up himself. He knew that if he photographed with slide film, he would have full control over the look of the finished slide as it doesn’t need a further step–printing or scanning–to be seen. Which got me thinking that’s not a bad way to work for photographers who want to have control over their photographs and can afford color slide film and E-6 processing.
Then all they need to do is have slide shows. I love slide shows. I have a few Kodak Carousel projectors and there is no comparison to what a photograph on a screen looks like projected from a slide versus digitally. It’s a “night and day” different in terms of brightness and richness, the slide looks that good.
It makes me want to reach for some slide film and work in the Fred Herzog way and catalog original slides with no need for printing. I’m sure I have a few rolls of Fuji Velvia and Provia floating around in my refrigerator’s vegetable bin. Plus there is the new Kodak E100 that is just calling to be used for a project.
When I was a news photographer in New Jersey in the 80s and 90s, we used to use Fuji Velvia and Provia and we had a supply of it with us at all times and we were allowed to use some for personal use. When I had vacation time, I’d load up a small Olympus XA 35mm rangefinder camera, put it in a case in my pocket, and was ready to document my travels wherever I went. When I got home, after sending the film in for processing, I’d schedule a slide show for friends. I’d use two projectors and a Sharp dissolve unit between them and set the show to music.
No one wanted to miss my travel shows. These weren’t boring travel slides but slices of life from wherever I visited. Slides from Alaska and the Grand Canyon. Black Hills South Dakota and the Rockies in Colorado.
I host a show for photographers in Boulder every month called Beers+Cameras:Boulder, and we have a digital projector for displaying work, but one photographer recently expressed an interest in showing slides with a slide projector. Real slides. I’m totally up for it.
For those who want to work without a darkroom, without computer work, slides are just as relevant today. We can still create these amazing images and screen our work for others. We can still make incredible slide shows, the materials exist.
And in 50 years, when others find out about them, like Fred Herzog, our photographs will have aged and will be marveled at. We’ll be celebrated.
It could happen. It did happen.