People say, “everything old is new again.” Like all idioms, there is a kernel of truth in the saying. This week some of our staff and the owners of The Camera Store got together to discuss analog photography, and especially a ‘new’ compliment of chemicals we have added to our darkroom selection. Most of the discussion was carried out by Julian Ferreira, who worked in photography for more than three decades, and is a master image-maker. He detailed some of the simplest procedures, and hinted at some secrets of seemingly magic craftsmanship. Recently, we’ve seen a tremendous upsurge in interest in the old ways of making pictures, while at the same time, we have many people at The Camera Store seeking out the state-of-the-art in imaging, and we have ranges of knowledge, expertise, and interest, in all these areas individually. What is so great, is how younger artists, deeply invested in 4K cameras, film emulation LUTs, sliders and etc. can gather with photographers who know the differences between DD-X and Ilfosol 3 for a mutually informative conversation, and the hope is this helps to inform the clientele at TCS, as well.
The Camera Store now imports and stocks Adox Adostab, a product formally akin to Agfa Sistan. This chemical is a grain-stabilizer, encapsulating silver grains, making prints less susceptible to changes caused by UV light. The addition of this ingredient into the process of a working analog photographer, with the proper use of toning agents, can prolong the life of a print for generations. It was, until recently when The Camera Store began importing it, difficult to acquire this chemistry in Canada, except by bringing it in from places as far away as Germany. We also carry C-41 developer. A longtime desire for local photographers was to experiment with developing color, and we have finally made that possible. We are also carrying a Foma brand paper, Fomabrom, a glossy, fibre-based paper that is noted for its intensely rich tonal range. In all, the idea was to create a palette for creative expression in photography. TCS is now unparalleled in Canada for selection, which is not, truth be told, very wide at all, but I would contend that we have a collection of working materials that are elegantly and purposefully chosen to help those seeking to make pictures with an ethos of a fine woodworker.
For my own part, I believe the growth in analog photography in recent years is not nostalgia, or an outgrowth of retro. Artists, and people who consider art, have always been able to distinguish between art and technique. Analog photography offers practitioners the opportunity to get their hands dirty. The tactile component, the physical interaction with sculpting light, and watching a print materialize in a tray of occult admixture, has the stamp of true romance to some. To others, it is the trustworthiness of a photograph produced from the atomic vestige of the negative, the proof-giving veracity of the analog process that makes it unchallengeable, or at least different in kind from digital photography. It is the basis in the hard fact of the material world that makes a print that is toned, and lovingly hewn with hands so powerful. It is not a one versus the other sort of thing. I often tell people to try film to see the difference for that sake alone. While it takes years to master an art, even a superficial interaction with the base materials can yield insights and knowledge that can be carried over into other areas. The Camera Store is proud to set anyone out on his or her own stage of that journey.