Honesty in RedMonday, December 02, 2019
|Nikon FM-2 50mm lens, Kodak Portra 800 pushed to 1600 ISO|
When Portland baroque bassist Curtis Daily comes to Vancouver to play for Early Music Vancouver and stays with us I arrange for a model to pose for us.The formerly blue-haired Olena faced our cameras. I attempt to gently give Daily a few pointers on lighting while I also shoot on the side.
When I went to pick up the film he shot (and one roll of 800 colour film of mine pushed to 1600) there was a young man at The Lab picking up his film. I asked him why he shot film, His answer was, “I shoot film because of its honesty.”
I thought about that as I was driving home and remembered in my first attempts at photography when I was 16 or 17 how I refused to use any kind of filter with my b+w film. I deemed the use of filters as dishonest. I long after discovered that b+w panchromatic film, while rendering all colours in shades of grey, did so with its own sensitivity towards the blue and ultra violet spectrum. Thus, skies where always lighter and reds darker. A simple yellow filter shifted everything to our human perception of values.
I have always maintained with no dissent that colour film and especially colour slide could never render human skin accurately. Paul Outerbridge in the late 30s managed that with his complex color carbro system. In that last century I could never photograph red-haired people accurately. My film made them look like inhabitants of Jupiter.
All that frustration disappeared with the advent of digital cameras and particularly if the photographer using them understood the mechanics of achieving a colour corrected skin tone using a reputable photo tool like Photoshop.
To illustrate this idea of honesty I took pictures of Olena using my Fuji X-E3 with a softbox flash while also using Kodak Portra 800 colour negative film pushed t 1600. This film was exposed to a mixture of existing light and the quartz modeling light of the flash softbox. The colours were predictably inaccurate. I call it “badly restored Technicolor”.
The chap at The Lab saying that film was honest was not quite right in his assertion. But I could have told him, that nonetheless the results with film can be interesting and more so because of the unpredictability and waiting for the film to be processed.
My memory of past exciting times came back when I got into my Cruz outside The Lab and unrolled my uncut roll of film.