Monday, 30 January 2012

A blast from the past- A very welcome one

My professional and personal photography is like most others I suspect, strictly digital these days.

I have half a dozen boxes of 5x4 sheet film in the fridge which, though currently in date, I'm not sure it will see use before the sell by date passes.

I have a Speedgraphic (somewhere) for which I harbour thoughts of a new as yet unspecified project.

Why film?


It is difficult to come up with a rational reason to shoot it.

Film can and does have a different quality which does stand out but cost, and general faffing around are, to my eternal shame, a little too much for me to bear, for all of its aesthetic benefits.

There is only one kind of Film that would make me change my mind and that is Type 55.

Polaroid Type 55 was a stunning black and white film which gave you an instant print AND a negative of great quality (providing you remembered dip it in a bucket of hardening fixer)

The results it gave would vary, quite drastically, depending on how you stored the film and by the batch you used

It gave you this wonderful wobbly edges on the rebate with little hole punches too.

I never used it in anger but my partner Lucinda Marland undertook a project which was featured in 'The Guardian' Weekend Magazine.

It was about 'The Lebensborn' the children who were the offpring of German soldiers in World War II.

The Lebensborn programme was established by Heinrich Himmler in line with the racial and eugenics policies of the Nazi's.

So a very sensitive subject matter to tackle.

Lucinda set off for Norway in her Citroen ZX loaded with Type 55 and stacks of hardening fixer to shoot some portraits of these remarkable people and tell the story of their fight for recognition and justice since the end of the war.

It could have been possible on digital, but just look at them.

Type 55 is simply another dimension.

But that was 3 years ago, Polaroid no longer make film and Type 55 has gone forever...

Or so it seemed.

Until I stumbled across this amazing and welcome piece of news.

A gentleman by the name of Bob Crowley is trying to bring it back to life, under the name 'New55'

Bob might well be considered by some as mad as a box of frogs by some for attempting this, but not by me.

I see he is reconsidering a kick-starter project.

And judging from the traffic if he did try he would succeed.

I know by the following that this great film had, that if he got anywhere close in terms of quality he would have a hit on his hands.

The last batch of Type 55 was selling for around £300.00 a box.

So I think it could work out.

Why do I care?

Firstly, there is a really big project that I would like to shoot on this new film.

Secondly, it would open many photographers eyes to such wonderful photographic possibilities.

When Lucinda started to shoot 5 x 4 type 55 it was a steep and somewhat fraught learning curve, but she mastered it, in my rather biased opinion.

As Lucinda herself says 'When I started to shoot with it is was so difficult, it did make me slow down and consider every shot so much more carefully, it made me such a better photographer, even when I use my DSLR the type 55 experience is with me'

Perhaps we could all do with a dose of that?

ps if anyone out there is interested, Bob Crowley is seeking someone to make a short video for his kickstarter, if you live anywhere near Boston and you want to help this wonderful project get off the ground do get in touch with him.

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