The Fading Glories Of Ektachrome No Colour ColourThursday, October 04, 2012
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart, 10 |
Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD, 140mm lens
Ektachrome 100 G
Makeup Rebecca Stewart
Sept 29, 2012
Those Daguerreotypes, tintypes, albumen prints, cyanotypes, platinum prints could not be placed in books magazines or newspapers. All that could be done to them was to frame them and hang them up them on the wall. The American Civil War era magazine, Harper’s Weekly published war photographs and paintings (lovely ones by Winslow Homer) by converting them into lithographs. Lithography had been invented at the end of the 18th century. One of the first artists to take advantage of the medium to protest man’s inhumanity to man was Francisco Goya.
The invention of the photogravure made it possible to put pictures into books. It was expensive and most books, at most, had only one photograph
|Fuji b+w instant print 3200 ISO|
It was the invention of the half-tone process and the printing of a photograph (using the process that under a loupe looks like a bunch of black and gray dots) in a NY newspaper in the beginning of the 1870s that ushered in what I call the age of the halftone.
Until the practical application of Einstein’s photons was used in computer monitors in the 90s of the 20th century, photography and journalism flourished in magazines, books and newspapers. Photographers and writers were paid very good money to travel to points unknown.
|Albumen print effect Corel Paint Shop Pro X2|
With the advent of digital technology, and cheap web photographs, photography and journalism as we knew it were transformed into something that is still in the middle of a long transition.
During the age of the halftone process, reproduction of photographs, negatives and slides was a complicated process in which sharpness was lost and more often than not contrast increased and details in the shadows disappeared. In order to get real blacks in magazines and newspapers, photographers had to print on glossy photographic paper. This is why the 8x10 glossy was the standard for so long.
|Reverse scan of Fuji negative peel|
For magazines (particularly the good ones) and art books art directors demanded transparency (in the 35mm format they were commonly called colour slides). One reason is that the art director could look at the original. Shooting slides is what for a long time divided the seasoned professional from the would-be pro. Slide material was exact in its requirements. Exposures had to be bang on, and since white balance had yet to be invented, photographers had a great difficulty in recording pictures under adverse lighting or lighting that mixed daylight with indoor tungsten and or florescent.
But the art director and the photographer could still look at that original.
Glossy b+w prints produced real blacks but to also render the many shades of gray (difficult with newsprint) photographers had to process film and shoot slide film that was low in contrast. We who shot for magazines used low contrast slide film. The high contrast variety reproduced poorly.
|Cyanotype setting with Corel Paint Shop Pro X2|
Making prints from those slides or from colour negatives produced prints that were never satisfactory. They had too much contrast and something called flashing had to be used to make prints from slides.
Because colour negative was more forgiving than transparency/slide film when exposing, high-brow professionals (I must admit I was one of those) looked down on those who used it. We considered them to have shoddy standards.
All that changed with the advent of the digital camera and digital processing of images and their reproduction in magazines, newspapers, books and ultimately the computer monitor.
But what was lost was the one original. You had the image in the back of your camera. The image corrected and fixed up on your monitor (calibrated or uncalibrated to whatever standards you might hold to). The digital file, on a CD, DVD or emailed would then be opened on an art director’s monitor calibrated to different standards. This image might then be sent to a magazine printer with a different colour standard. And if the image was to be on a web page or web-based magazine then the colour, contrast and brightness depended on a myriad of variables.
On the good side, for those who shot film or shoot film (that’s me) the scanner and Photoshop are able to bring out (not invent!) all that detail that is in the slide, negative or print that up until now no darkroom could really do justice. The paradox is that in the age of digital, the old wet process that is film has never had the excellence of results that I see now.
A few years ago (perhaps 4) I shot a b+w cover for a local magazine. It was the portrait of a young male ballet dancer wearing a black shirt, a black tie and a black suit jacket. I was furious with my stylist. I cold have never printed a b+w glossy in my darkroom that revealed the differences and the textures of the three blacks. And yet the cover was glorious and you could discern the weave of the shirt, the jacket and the tie.
On the currently bad side (of things digital) is something that is my own personal opinion. I like pastels and soft colours. I like to see detail in the shadows. I don’t like overly bright and colourful colour (generally called oversaturation) that many describe as punchy. My reason is a force of habit. Those punchy colours did not reproduce well in magazines. Magazines were my bread and butter for most of my life.
It is for the above reason that I have always used low contrast slide film like Ektachrome 100G. It has been discontinued so I will transfer my loyalty to Fuji Provia. Unfortunately Astia which was equivalent to my Ektachrome has been discontinued.
What you see here is a scanned Ektachrome 100G 6x7 cm transparency of my granddaughter Lauren Elizabeth Stewart, 10. Her older sister, Rebecca made her up too look Chinese. The reason for this is that on my mother’s side we have relatives in the Philippines, the Roxas who are of Chinese heritage. I took five exposures with Ektachrome 100 G (I have a few rolls left) and one Fuji b+w instant print film (3200 IS0).
I like no colour colour. Rebecca made sure to use an overly bright red lipstick to contrast the muted colour of what Lauren is wearing. The black and white coat is a Chinese coat that was given to my mother in Manila in the mid 30s. The background is pineapple fiber material used in the Philippines before the advent of things synthetic.