Film is a pain in the ass. Yes. But I’m coming to the realization it’s the only solution I can work with. I just can’t make a black and white print from digital capture with any feeling. At least, not consistently. I know I should accept digital on it’s own terms. I had planned to do that, even said so right here on this blog. But black and white from digital just doesn’t seem organic. In the back of my mind, I know all of that color information is there. There doesn’t seem to be a natural way to avoid it and shoot with a black and white mindset. It just doesn’t feel truthful to me. I know the problem lies in my head and not in the method of capture. But I am so enamored of the tactile quality of film, the bite of the grain, the vulnerability and limitations of that little piece of plastic, and the surprises that happen in the process of bringing it all together.
So, in resignation, I started piecing together a little proposal. To myself. Wondering just how expensive it would be to pursue a project with black and white film. Turns out, not that expensive- to shoot, at least. Purchased in 100′ rolls, I figured it would cost only a couple of bucks per roll of 36 exposure. Chemicals are pretty cheap, too. I sketched out a reasonable budget for a 6-8 month initial shooting period. I’d process the film and scan it on my ancient but capable enough scanner, just to plot direction and keep a tally of the project in progress.
After the shooting phase, it gets a bit thornier. Decisions would have to be reckoned with. Paper IS expensive. Scanning is tricky to do right, prohibitively expensive if drum scans are necessary. One option would be to join the local photography center, either for darkroom access or to use their better scanning equipment. I’d hold out hope for a lottery win, or the possibility of a grant, if the work was good enough, to finance a final printing.
In fact, a small grant, in the form of a Christmas check from my mother, has already arrived, and I am close to ordering that first roll of bulk film. Stay tuned!