I remember the days in a Maine darkroom where I recklessly spooled my Tri-X onto steel reels and taped the cans down for good measure. Of course, I practiced threading dry exposed film but with the lights out in a stuffy closet-like room, it made it almost impossible to get it right the first time. I grabbed the film by its edges, bent it slightly and hooked the sprockets onto the prongs on the reel. Sometimes it caught. Sometimes I thought it caught. I spent an inordinate amount of time rolling and re-rolling film. That was just the first of many challenges with film. The good folks in Rockport were both meticulous and strict about their film development. No sooner had I learned to spool film, I was confronted by the idea of getting my chemistry just right in temperature and volume. Too warm and I would nuke my film. Too cold and it would take me eons to finish.
Getting the chemistry just right was just the start. Film had to be agitated just so (a source of great mystery even to this day) and I followed along and got into a system of ‘swish-swish-rotate-swish’ every minute.
But all of this is old hack. It had to happen. Digital is now firmly established in our collective consciences. Is it the death knell of film? That’s for time to figure out. I still shoot film. But click here and you will see why I raced to jot a few thoughts down.