Thursday, 1 March 2012

Cheerio, Ektachrome

Yashica Mat / Kodak Ektachrome 100VS

A while back I had a look at Kodak Ektachrome, and liked what I saw; but all good things come to an end - even Lou Reed's Live: Take No Prisoners - and Kodak have recently announced that they are discontinuing their range of slide films. The whole lot, including Elite Chrome, which was aimed at the consumer market. Farewell then to standard Ektachrome 100G, and Ektachrome 100VS, its "vivid saturation" twin. I barely knew ye. Take No Prisoners was the one with the speed-induced free association ranting. Look, someone transcribed it, back in 2000. Not very well, but they got the flavour of it.

See, the band starts a song, and Lou Reed does the first line, and then he gets distracted by the noises inside his head, "they're sittin' there by the fire man, it's an electric fire, you plug it in, I like make believe fire, I like make believe love, too, ooh mama, gimme some make believe love - hey, make believe love, that's an album title Michael, write that down quick...", and this goes on for an hour and forty minutes! Walk on the Wild Side is seventeen minutes long and he doesn't even finish the first verse. It's brilliant. "Watch me turn into Lou Reed before your very eyes."

Mamiya C33 / Kodak Ektachrome EPP

Still, enough about Lou Reed. The headline image was shot with 100VS - you can tell - using a Yashica Mat 124G. 100VS wasn't aimed at portrait photographers, although with Photoshop's colour correction I didn't have a problem with it. As for 100G, I liked the relatively restrained, gritty look, although like so many other people I didn't shoot enough to bond with it because Fuji's slide films were cheaper. That's the trick. Never get too close, because it won't last. Never get too close to something expensive, either, because it'll take you down with it.

Yeah, and Metal Machine Music isn't just feedback, there are noises. I mean, apart from the noises. There are other noises.

There Are Other Noises, that's an album title. I'd better write that down before I forget. The other images were shot with a 35mm camera, a Canon EOS 100, using a Sigma 15-30mm, at the Tate Modern. Ektachrome 100G.

No doubt the few newspapers that cover this news will talk about the death of slide film, although Fuji still makes Velvia, and Provia, at least. I'm not sure about Sensia and Astia, however. The company has a page for Astia, but it's not listed in their directory of slide films, and although Sensia was apparently discontinued in 2010, it was discontinued again in late 2011. The company also makes, or made, Trebi and Fortia E6 film for the far eastern market. Or made. Or not. And as far as I know the only other slide film made in the entire world is Agfa Precisa, which may or may not etc.

Mamiya RB67 / Kodak Ektachrome 100VS

What's the difference between Fuji's films? Well, Velvia 50 is very contrasty and vivid, Velvia 100F is toned down a bit, Provia and Sensia are toned down even more, and are apparently the exact same thing, made to slightly different tolerances, and Astia isn't or wasn't. And that's Fuji's slide film range. I'm listening to Take No Prisoners as I write this, it'll be interesting to see what effect it has on my writing. In my mind, New York is a grainy black and white photo of a... it's the cover shot of The Ramones' debut album, but with snow.

There was a time when amateur photographers liked to bore party guests by showing off the slides they shot on their trip to India, or In-jah. Nowadays no-one projects slides. The same kind of people do the same kind of thing with blogs instead, or by forcing their victims to scroll through the pictures on their iPod.

Slide film was once the mark of the professional, because it was less grainy than negative film, contrastier, and in a professional workflow it was easier to check the results. Scanning and digital cameras have essentially nullified these advantages, and E6 slide processing has been in decline for several years. No doubt it will one day go the way of all flesh. The way of all emulsion. Until then, there's something special about holding slide film up to the window to look at the results. It's like looking at a computer screen, but analogue.