Ilford FP4+


I found a folder of old negatives today. Some of these go back a couple of decades and more to the days when I used a twin lens medium format camera for landscape photography. Not a lot has changed despite the convulsions that imaging has undergone over the past 18 years since the advent of digital capture. Ilford have also undergone their own corporate convulsions and have survived to be strong in a diminishing market. Monumental change can create specialist and niche markets. Ilford FP4+, as well as several other legendary emulsions from Ilford, Kodak and Fuji, is still available to those who are determined to work with film and chemistry to create their images. Long may it remain so. Film does not give the instant gratification of digital, the gratification comes later, but what film did give us was the ability to understand light and relativity. We learnt by our mistakes and by getting our hands dirty. We did not learn by histogram. I think those of us who understand film are fortunate. We didn't need to learn about photography whilst we were learning the new technology. Look at it another way, film lets us use new technology to achieve so much more than we could before. Digital capture is not the real threat to analogue. Without the means to convert analogue to digital, the days of film could well be numbered. The continued availability of scanners is the key to the viability of film based photography at a commercial level. Only a few years ago, many people were saying that digital could not replace film. How wrong they were, it can replace film because for most practical purposes and in most ways, digital capture exceeds film. There is some irony in the fact that film will likely eventually disappear because the hardware required to convert it will no longer be available.

The image above will be recognisable to anyone who knows Grindsbrook well from their upward excursions to the delights of the Kinder plateau. Although taken many years ago, it is good to be able to handle these negatives. I remember the day I took this and the neg is as fresh and clean as the day I took it from the developing tank. I don't think I would say the same about a digital file in 30 years time. There is a kind of emotional and tactile attachment to film that digital capture cannot replicate.... except with a scanner.
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