Friday, April 4, 2014

New 55 Film

New55 photographed by Polly Chandler 
Alright, 4x5 photographers. We have a Kickstarter to get behind. New55 FILM is taking up the challenge of filling the market of the discontinued Type 55 film. The product has a different quality than Type 55, but from what I can tell from the samples, it looks beautiful. The product will produce a negative and a positive, and is used with a 545 Polaroid Land Film Holder. To learn more about the film, pledge a donation, and find out about other pledge perks, check out their Kickstarter. If they meet their goal, film is expected to shipped out in 8 months.

Here is some more information by Michael Kirchoff about New55:

There’s a new Kickstarter campaign on the block, and they want your hard earned money to help them bring about a new film for photographers to make images with. Film?...yes film. Some brief info on what it is and what they plan to do, before letting you watch the video and explore further on your own. The name of the film is New55, and it is a re-imagining of sorts of Polaroid’s legendary Type 55 positive/negative film, which ceased production back in 2008. That end was a shock to the system and careers of a great many photographers out there, as it was used for both commercial and artistic purposes. It was the film with the famous deckled edge and identifiable border that came in single sheet form for 4x5 view cameras. It had incredible tonal range and sharpness. It was loved by so many photographers out there that petitions to keep it in production flooded the halls of Polaroid. None of that worked however, as you might have guessed. Some, myself included, purchased and literally hoarded box after box of the film and put it into cold storage to be used sparingly until even now, because the thought of not having it is, well...sort of incomprehensible.

So what is New55? It is a film that uses Type 55 as a template for something similar, but quite different, and in some ways, an improvement. It still comes in single sheets of 4x5 black and white film. It is still a positive/negative film...meaning that upon peeling the shot sheet open, you are presented with a black and white positive print, and a high resolution negative of the same size, for either printing or scanning. One improvement is of a “green” nature, in that the redesign of the actual film packet means that less trash is created after it’s used. The possibility that the ISO of the film will be higher than Type 55’s ISO 50, maybe even as high as 200. Lastly, the film is exposure balanced, meaning that when you shoot a properly exposed sheet, you get a tonally rich print AND a perfectly exposed negative...something that Type 55 could never do. Cool, right? You’re damn right it’s cool, and quite beautiful as well! It’s also worth noting that there is no 4x5 black and white instant film currently in production anymore. Even Fuji has bailed on it. That leaves a big hole in what is a seemingly declining film market...or is it? Now is the time to get in on this Kickstarter, and hopefully, when fully funded, it will bring us a new and improved film worthy of making new art.

There is something quite special that occurs when using a product like instant film, especially one that gives you both a print and negative. Creating an instant tangible object with so much soul like that is the closest thing to magic that I can even think of. Even digital photography cannot instantly give you both a print and a negative! A long time ago in the very early days of my career I started working for an incredible photographer and mentor by the name of Alan Ross. Alan was one of Ansel Adams’ former assistants, and was (and still is) the guy who gets to make prints from Ansels original negatives that are sold in the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. On a couple of occasions I even assisted him in the darkroom during the making of these prints. I still have in my mind the very vivid memory of holding one of these hallowed negatives, ‘Moon and Half Dome’ to be exact. Let me tell you, I may as well have been holding a FabergĂ© Egg or the Hope Diamond as far as I was concerned. That negative was such a physical object of incredible history and culture, that it still resonates with me today. I think the new photographers out there willing to try something different than digital will see this in a film like New55. They get to create something tangible that has the potential to ignite their passion like nothing else.

This is what brings me to another reason I have for writing this article. One of the things that had been mentioned to me by the team behind New55 was that they felt a new, younger audience would be in the forefront of making pledges and showing support of their new endeavor. I was a little surprised at this initially, being one of the older, and past users of the original Type 55 Polaroid. However, the more I thought about it and the more I looked at what was happening with the analog photographers out there, I changed my view and now feel that they are absolutely right.

I recently read a post made on a Facebook page regarding New55 and the idea of bringing back a little of the old technology. The person responsible for the post stated that he liked having as broad a range of materials as possible to use in making our art, however, to not look to the old trends in using these materials. It seemed so contradictory to me, and made me think that a younger photographer would never think in those terms. It’s like saying that the original Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro were so unbelievably great, but the contemporary versions have nothing to offer the new buyers, or the changes in technology could not possibly have made any improvements to them. Perhaps referring to New55 as a reinvention is not as accurate as saying that it is more of an evolved version of its predecessor, with some improvements, but still exciting and different. Honestly, the days of discussing the validity of what you shoot with are over. I don’t care what you use, just make the imagery the best you can with whatever it is that suits your vision. Truly, it is the newer generation of artists that are embracing the ways of old and trying out the things that often appear difficult or problematic. I suppose that some would simply call them hipsters, but really, that’s just another label for people to put on those who do things differently than they do. When you’re younger, you tend to be more optimistic about the world, and certainly more willing to get behind something you feel passionate about. Youth also seems to be more likely to take on risk. As “they” say...better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all. There are never any guarantees, but at least something was learned in the process. I know that as I find myself getting older, I try to remain young at heart and optimistic still. It gets harder every year, sure, but I do my best. I prefer to remember myself in those terms, when I was wide-eyed and excited about photography and the career I had chosen. That’s why I find myself getting behind the efforts of those responsible for New55 Film.

So now that you’ve read about me and my crazy romantic feelings towards analog photography and using film, I think it’s about time to move on and let you do some investigating of your own and draw some conclusions. Some may be with me, and some may not. The great thing is that everyone gets to have their opinion, and I’m more than willing to listen to yours. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, so you probably won’t be able to change my thoughts or opinions, but I definitely want you to form your own. Every now and then I hear someone write or utter the phrase “Photography Is Dead”. I can’t even seriously consider something like this to ever be true. With so many new and talented photographers out there willing to explore the limitless possibilities, how can it? Photography can only die if we give up on it and let it die. I don’t give up, and neither do the people behind New55 Film. Watch the video, do some research of your own, and consider the pay it forward aspect of this incredible opportunity. Thank you so very much for reading. 

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