By some peoples standards I am considered a “dinosaur.” I still use film
and print in the darkroom.
The equipment I currently use are a 4x5 field camera and five Fujinon
lenses. This camera renders a 4” by 5” negative to work from. My other
camera is a Hasselblad 500cm with five lenses. For this camera I decided
to use the A-12 backs and it renders a 6cmx6cm (2.25” square) negative.
The film I use has an ISO rating of 100. The reason I use this film
speed is due to the fact it has a fine grain structure and will make
beautiful enlargements and tonal quality at any size.
With all the various tripods on the market and claims made, I still use a
wooden ash tripod for everything. And it is large enough to hold/mount an
8x10 view camera on it. The reason I use wood is because wood absorbs
vibration. Metal and the various other hollow leg tripods have a tendency
to transmit a vibration up to the camera even in the slightest breeze or
I develop my own film and process my own prints in the darkroom. All
works are printed on a double-weight paper, fibre base and processed for
the long term, just as the masters did. I usually use two types of
developers. A warm tone developer for a nice smooth tonal scale and a
cold tone developer for a short time to achieve a good crisp black. This
process which has been used for years is a must for a full tonal range.
Then the print is immersed in a citric stop bath to halt the development
process. From there I use a two bath fixer. The fixer is basically made
from sodium thiosulfate which removes all the undeveloped silver and
stabilizes the final silver image we see. After a bath in what is called
hypo clearing agent, the print is wash and air dried.
All prints are mounted on a 4-ply museum 100% rag board. I really hate
to use the word “archival” anymore. When I was in college in the 1970s
the word archival meant that the image would last more than 100 years.
The reason I don’t use the term “archival” anymore in reference to my
images is due to the fact everything today is appears to be “archival.”
Especially when it comes to Digital Imaging and the pigments that are used
It has been pointed out to me by more than one “expert” in their field that
the various companies have used accelerated aging process’ to determine
the longevity of the pigments. That led me to doing a real life test with
the various digital pigments.
I live in Texas and one side of my house has direct sunlight on the windows
for most of the day. Along with that and the heat that develops during
the hot summer days I printed several prints using these Archival Dyes. I
covered half the print with black construction paper and taped several in
the windows for three weeks. After three weeks I removed the prints and
black construction paper and I was not surprised to find that the uncovered
half of the print degraded severely, while the covered side appeared to
have no visual loss of content or pigment. So the word “Archival” has been
changed, and if kept in a perfect environment where the light, humidity and
everything is controlled these pigments will last. But who wants a piece of
art that can only be brought out to view and then put right back up not to
be seen until next time or maybe forgotten about for years.
A silver print should be around forever. Silver is a metal and shouldn’t
fade over time. The contrast shouldn’t even change and will handle just
about any climate or light change. Although I do hand tint some pieces of
mine, the pigments should hold up to the test of time if kept out of direct
sunlight and the intense heat of some lamps. The company I get my
pigments from has been in business since 1885, yes 1885. They have not
changed their process since then either.
The digital cameras we used just a few years ago, 5 or 6 megapixels are
now antiques. These cameras which looked like 35mm SLR’s have been
replaced by 12 megapixel cameras that look the same. But there is a big
difference in the quality of the image. The digital back used on most
medium format cameras is roughly up to 32 megapixel and there is talk of
a full frame 75 megapixel back. The digital world is changing faster than
we can keep up with.
The computers we use today will be outdated in a couple of years. This
means the way of storing our images will have been outdated. All one has
to do is look at how far and how fast things have change as far as
storage. We went to a hard drive, to a floppy (both could be erased with
a magnet) to a CD, a DVD, a Blue-Ray disk, to the SD card which was once
512 mgs and is now up to a 10 gig SD Card. I’m afraid what we have
today will go the way of the Edsel (a car), try and buy a new one.
It is not that I am not in favor of new technology, I myself have a what
one would call a digital darkroom, a digital back for my Hasselblad and a
100 gig hard drive hooked to it for storage. It will hold over 1,000 high
resolution images. Not to mention the graphic programs available, and
they don’t come cheap. None of it does. I use these tools when longevity
in not an issue. If I do a wedding or portrait session I prefer to use film
even color film. Color film uses what is called a four-layer silver-dye
cloud emulsion, meaning, the base of the film is silver. One layer of this
film is a filter that filters out the green cast of the florescent light. The
digital is used for charity work I photograph, the once in awhile commercial
job and that is about it.
I hope I’m wrong about digital and it does last at least 100 yrs. I also,
hope I will be around to see it I will be 154 years old by then. But
somehow I don’t think I will make it.
Creative Imaging of Thomas Finkenstadt