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BJDrew

Sad Day - Darkroom Closed

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Sad day, boys.

I take the day off. Head to local darkroom in the visual arts center to make prints. I have an M3 around my neck. My conversation with the receptionist goes like this:

 

Me: Hi, Can I have 6 hours of darkroom time?

Lady: Digital media room, second floor

Me: No, I'm here for the darkroom

Lady: We got rid of that

Me: What? Why!

Lady: Because people use digital cameras now

Me: Bu bu but... what happened to the equipment?

Lady: We threw it out

Me: You threw out all the darkroom equipment and film processing gear?!?

Lady: Yeah, sorry, film is a thing of the past.

 

 

This last line echoed in my mind as I drove home to scan yet another roll of film.

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You're in NJ, right? Was this in Summit by any chance? Sad to hear that.

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You're in NJ, right? Was this in Summit by any chance? Sad to hear that.

 

Yeah. It was. I highly doubt they threw the stuff away, but the conversation was so disheartening.

 

Film may not be going away any time soon - but WOW - it's getting lonely!

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Maybe it's a cycle with the following phases:

 

1. People use less film.

2. Public darkrooms and photo labs shut down, throw away/give away/sell equipment.

3. People set up private darkrooms with old equipment. They discover/re-discover joys of film.

4. People use more film.

5. Public darkrooms and photo labs re-open with new equipment.

 

If this were true, it would be nice. More likely I am deluding myself.

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One of our museums did the same when they moved the photography department off site and refurbished the darkroom space. Luckily i learnt of this while having lunch with their IT guy and rescued a Durst Colour 5x4 and Leica enlarger; Nikon F, Mamiya RB67 several lenses, trays, papers, films, dryer, and lots of other things and loaded them into my car. I believe most of the other museums also did the same in my town.

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[...]

Me: You threw out all the darkroom equipment and film processing gear?!?

Lady: Yeah, sorry, film is a thing of the past.

 

Did you check out back to see if the hardware was in the dumpster? It may be an inglorious kind of thing to do, but when our local newspaper 'upgraded' I got some precious process and enlarging lenses that way.

.

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Lady: Yeah, sorry, film is a thing of the past.

 

Truth hit me like a freight train...

 

Bruno

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Lady: Yeah, sorry, film is a thing of the past.

 

Well of course film is a thing of the past!

 

According to Reuters, the 2010 sales revenue for film, paper, chemicals and plates was $8.5 Billion (with a "B ") USD (sorry I can't link, I'm on my Kindle - please Google it).

 

According to Durst, they built and sold more enlargers in 2011 than they did in the previous five years combined.

 

Yes, film is indeed a thing of the past.

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Well, film is certainly a thing of the past for those, who had their holiday and celebration memories printed on 9 x 13 cm paper once. But this is the case for quite some time now. I'm not deriding this attitude, I have the same attitude to things, which are not important to me personally, but might be for others.

 

Thinking about it, was part of a crew sailing from Hamburg to Edinburgh in the early 90s, which took us four days. The plane probably doesn't take much more than an hour. And sailing was most certainly a thing of the past as well, already in the early 90s, alongside with vinyl records and music played on original 18th century instruments.

 

I think it is an enrichment, that we do not all think the same, act the same and have the same preferences.

 

Stefan

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One of our museums did the same when they moved the photography department off site and refurbished the darkroom space. Luckily i learnt of this while having lunch with their IT guy and rescued a Durst Colour 5x4 and Leica enlarger; Nikon F, Mamiya RB67 several lenses, trays, papers, films, dryer, and lots of other things and loaded them into my car. I believe most of the other museums also did the same in my town.

 

This sounds odd but a few years ago I tried to give away my darkroom (4x5 color - commercial dryers, timers, easels, etc.) on Craig's List and found no takers. I called schools and they didn't want it. I posted on this forum and a guy came buy and picked up most of it but never came back for the res.

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Film is a thing of the past?

Clueless!

For 14 weeks the students of Quebec have been marching in the streets to protest tuition fee increases (an many other government issues).

I have been shooting the marches since the beginning of the movement.

 

I have NEVER seen so many film cameras since the late 90s!!

 

Anyone who says film is dead is out of touch.

 

Schools do not want analogue because of the cost and it requires staff.

But the students are out with film en masse!

Hasselblad, Holga, Pentak K1000, Mamiya M6, you name it! It is in the streets of Montreal every night.

Edited by Allen in Montreal

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Nice analogy, Stefan.

 

In thinking about this, it seems that drawing a parallel between large format B&W silver based photography and sailing is a more fitting analogy than all film photography.

 

As for 35mm and 120 film photography, both are still viable alternatives to digital, in scenarios where speed is not paramount. Yes, film photography is slower than digital. There is no instant gratification in terms of viewing, emailing and printing the images.

 

Some want to say that film is more expensive than digital. That simply isn't so. Starting from scratch - no camera equipment of any kind currently owned - assemble a digital kit and a film kit (both consisting of new equipment, not new vs. used) of equal specs and capabilities.

 

In medium format, the digital kit will exceed the cost of the film kit by a factor of anywhere from two to four. Comparing 35 mm film vs. 24 mm X 36 mm full frame digital, the film kit will be less costly by a factor of perhaps two to three. When you get down to comparing apples to apples, the alleged cost savings of digital evaporate, particularly when you start at square one of no equipment presently owned.

 

Choosing digital or film is an exercise in choosing benefit/liability/cost/problem package "A" over "B" or vice versa. Both have advantages and disadvantages but neither is a thing of the past nor the photographer's salvation. YMMV.

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Comparing 35 mm film vs. 24 mm X 36 mm full frame digital, the film kit will be less costly by a factor of perhaps two to three. When you get down to comparing apples to apples, the alleged cost savings of digital evaporate, particularly when you start at square one of no equipment presently owned.

 

 

I think film users may consider stopping being defensive, and just be happy they are working in a niche for whatever reasons... and accept that this niche may continue to decline. Just enjoy how you do things and if you can get others to do so too, good for you.

 

I think film is not dead nor "a thing of the past" and it probably is wrong to use those expressions. But it will mostly be used by artists and film enthusiasts in the future rather than for "mainstream" use. Perhaps this market can grow somewhat. It is hard to say at this point. I think when people refer to film as something from the past, they are talking about its heyday, not that it has no application anymore. Unfortunately it will become more difficult to find good b/w labs, chemicals, paper, etc. as time goes on and this will make it a bit more challenging for some. It isn't as if every drugstore sells oil paints and canvas either.

 

In any case, for many users, there are economic benefits to using digital photography and they would not have made the decision to go the digital route blindly. To ignore this is simply to turn a blind eye to reality but it has no bearing on whether film, processing and printing is a joy for many. For some there are economic and personal reasons to keep shooting film. If you spent a lot of time learning a skill such as b/w printing and developing a style, why would you want to abandon that if you feel it works for you? Likewise I can see why some young people and others would want to explore film photography and darkroom work.

 

However, I don't see how you came to the math conclusion above. An M9 is only $2000 more than an M7 and the lenses cost the same. A 5DII is only $2200 vs. an EOS 1V at $1700. That $500 will not pay for very much when it comes to film, processing and scanning. And when you consider the cost of a bunch of lenses for a decent system, even the difference of a couple of thousand dollars will not be that much proportionately or over time. A lot of film users will require a scanner. And APS and smaller cameras are much less expensive and apparently serve the needs of their owners quite well. You can get a new Canon or Nikon DSLR and zoom lens for only $500.

 

Separately you really are talking about mostly amateur photographers who use film as the vast majority of pros and those using applied photography (forensic, medical, scientific, documentation, industrial, military, repro., government) have no choice but to use digital. And speed is only one factor. MF digital serves high end and commercial markets that surely can calculate the cost/benefit. And Hassy just lowered their prices so that one can get a H4D-31 incl. 35-90mm lens for about $15,000.

 

A decent color darkroom (enlarger, lenses, color analyzer, processor, chemical mixing and storage, accessories) capable of making 17" wide prints will cost a lot more than a good inkjet printer which will not have the overhead of the special room, plumbing, electrical, and floor space that is required. Inkjet printing also will not have the issues of silver recovery and chemical waste.

 

There is a reason Leica stopped making enlargers some time ago and why Canon, Nikon, and Minolta stopped making film scanners. So it will come down to whether the enthusiasts and artists will comprise enough of a market to keep a viable film industry going along with quality film cameras and processing equipment. Time will tell about this.

Edited by AlanG

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That was sad reading... I'm just about to start a session in my own darkroom at home.

Pictures of Machu Picchu at sunrise from the sun gate ... and the prospect of using the fabulous NEW ILFORD MULTIGRADE ART 300 paper.

 

Film based photography is as alive today as it ever was.

 

Regards

Charles

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Went out last Saturday to get my film development kit back together, after 20 years. Few shops left with this gear on the Boulevard Beaumarchais here in Paris, but the best sorted one was sold out on 2-roll development tanks

!

 

While walking around town, during manifestations of the past two years, in and in front of the shops I visited Saturday: everywhere you see film gear used and desired, recent or revived. Sure, it's also a hip retro thing, spin-off from Lomography, flickr and so on. But it's also a counter movement, triggered by digital acceleration everywhere.

 

And the debate re/gear costs: perceived and real obsolescence, need for constant investment in all kinds of hard- and software, care- and powerfully fuelled GAS all drive up the digital bill. Many people cannot and especially do not want to follow that highway blindingly lit by advertisement and marketing. Instead, they stay on or take the silver path. As we all know, it's made by walking it.

 

End of this week the Patersons shall be delivered Bd Beaumarchais. Will be back there then

 

Cheers,

 

Alexander

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I think film users may consider stopping being defensive, and just be happy they are working in a niche for whatever reasons... and accept that this niche may continue to decline. Just enjoy how you do things and if you can get others to do so too, good for you.

 

However, I don't see how you came to the math conclusion above.

 

A decent color darkroom (enlarger, lenses, color analyzer, processor, chemical mixing and storage, accessories) capable of making 17" wide prints will cost a lot more than a good inkjet printer which will not have the overhead of the special room, plumbing, electrical, and floor space that is required.

Not sure how you arrived at the conclusion that I am somehow "defensive," but it is an erroneous conclusion. I am content using film, paper and chemicals. I have nothing to be defensive about. In spite of claims to the contrary, silver halide photography works, period. Just not as quickly as digital.

 

However, I do know more than a couple of photographers who are absolutely certain that digital is superior in every way whose reactions to my continued working in the silver halide process range from incomprehension/mild frustration/irritation to thinly veiled umbrage at my refusal to jump on their digital bandwagon and follow the crowd.

 

From where I stand, it seems it is a certain segment of digital shooters who are defensive about their method of photographing. My choice to use film is my choice, nothing more. It is not my way of mocking digital shooters, as some apparently have incorrectly decided on some deeper unconscious level.

 

Regarding my math, I came to my conclusions by comparing the prices of Nikon. and Hasselblad top end cameras. From the B&H website -

 

24x36mm digital: Nikon D4 - $6000

35mm film: Nikon F6 - $2500

 

In the medium format arena -

Digital:

Hasselblad H4D -200MS - $36,000

Hasselblad H4D kit - $29,500

Hasselblad H4D - 40 body - $17,000

 

Film:

Hasselblad 503 CW body - $3460

Hasselblad 150mm f/4 CFi lens - $4259

Hasselblad 50mm f/4 CFi lens - $5180

 

A new enlarger that will enlarge the 'Blad 120 negatives to 17" size will run roughly the same price as an Epson 3880 (or higher) printer - a wash in terms of cost.

 

A good Schneider 80mm lens for 120 enlarging and a Schneider 50 mm lens for 35 mm enlarging will cost about the same as a desktop computer setup and the latest version of Photoshop - again, a wash in terms of cost.

 

There's no reason for special plumbing for a servicable home darkroom, as far as I can see. In terms of electrical wiring what your home already has in place will work just fine, if is in safe operating condition. You would need to install an exhaust fan, but this should safely operate on your exsisting home electrical system, unless I'm off base on electrics (I am not an electrician by trade so I can't say for sure about that point).

Edited by Messsucherkamera

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I didn't specify that you in particular are defensive but that is the general feeling I get from these threads. I do see this biased economic argument as an example. I think film users who don't want to use digital have to just be happy with their choice and not question why others have chosen digital. Some digital shooters may always question why anyone would still shoot film. You can either educate them about your reasons or ignore them.

 

In light of the title of this thread, I don't think that various places closed their darkrooms without considering the reasons. I stopped using my darkroom probably 12 years ago because I had no more use for it. A lot of digital shooters used to shoot film or still do and are not ignorant about it. Unrelated to digital vs. film, I'm pointing out that your price calculations are unconvincing to me and do not align with what is actually happening in the marketplace.

 

When it comes to pricing systems, I think most know that it is not necessary to spend a lot on a system - digital or film... depending on your needs of course. (Both a Canon 50 1.8 and an Apo Summicron do pretty much the same thing.) One can get a bunch of used gear cheap or free - digital or film, but that wasn't your point.

 

When I am talking about a darkroom I do not mean a simple basic home darkroom that can only make low volume b/w prints or an occasional color print in a drum. I am thinking more about why institutions and commercial users have closed their darkrooms. The floorspace alone will be at least a couple of thousand a year in metro regions for a modest space. And if those places shoot film, they will also need to make a lot of high quality scans. Before digital most pros had at least a small b/w darkroom. That's not the case today.

 

I am not going to beat you over the head with examples but to deny that digital photography can be the least expensive solution for imaging needs of many is to ignore one of the main reasons why the market has moved so much. The individuals and institutions buying expensive MF gear know what they are doing for the most part too. And despite what you feel is an excessive cost, this may be the most efficient and inexpensive solution for them. I understand, despite my enthusiasm for bicycles, that some people find driving an expensive car to suit their needs better too.

 

Of course one can set up a darkroom for very little or even nothing if that is what interests you. Go for it.

Edited by AlanG

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Went out last Saturday to get my film development kit back together, after 20 years. Few shops left with this gear on the Boulevard Beaumarchais here in Paris, but the best sorted one was sold out on 2-roll development tanks !

 

While walking around town, during manifestations of the past two years, in and in front of the shops I visited Saturday: everywhere you see film gear used and desired, recent or revived. Sure, it's also a hip retro thing, spin-off from Lomography, flickr and so on. But it's also a counter movement, triggered by digital acceleration everywhere.

 

And the debate re/gear costs: perceived and real obsolescence, need for constant investment in all kinds of hard- and software, care- and powerfully fuelled GAS all drive up the digital bill. Many people cannot and especially do not want to follow that highway blindingly lit by advertisement and marketing. Instead, they stay on or take the silver path. As we all know, it's made by walking it.

 

End of this week the Patersons shall be delivered Bd Beaumarchais. Will be back there then

 

Cheers,

 

Alexander

 

 

You live in a wonderful city. I was in Paris for a week and rented a Leica M9 and summilux, took many memorable shots and had an incredible time. I visited Mason du Leica, and ended up walking out with an M9-P.

Was a great deal with the exchange rate and VAT refund. I can't wait to return to Paris, no shortage of photo opportunities, and wonderful people.

 

Nik

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