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Thread: So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

  1. #11

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I have been fortunate to work with Kodak as an engineering and business consultant and we have talked at length over drinks and dinners about product lines and the "future". While the sun does not rise or set with Kodak as per this particular subject of discussion, as one reference point I can tell you that Kodak has every intention in recovering the investment from the very successful and popular T- Max line as long as possible (with the expeption of the 5x7 line that is going to be offered as a special order product). But that fact alone will not make a hill of beans about what decisions are made down the road. What will matter, IMHO, will be what you see in the fashion magazines or on the walls of the corporations and galleries. Scanning the magazine racks at the large book stores the last few years has made me feel very good about the future of B&W. Most things we enjoy in this world have some economic hinge affixed to it. Profitability makes the wheels turn and photography is not immune from the grip of these forces. Color, as well as digital, makes a niche for itself be being attracted to a select mindset of consumer. The latest rage of digital will no doubt continue to progress in a very positive direction as processing speeds, memory, disk capacities and printer technologies advance at light speed. However, I look upon digital as a tool that I can elect to take out of or leave in the toolbox not as the evil vixen that at times it is made out to be. Some of the marketing data I have seen on digital seems to point to an incremental revenue stream for a consumer that otherwise may have been a roll of film a year user with conventional films. To those of you that have a calling to teach photography, all of us owe you a sincere thank you. It is partly from an introduction to the art form that new consumers of the entire photographic spectrum will find a reason to allow us to enjoy the product lines we have currently in front of us. I am disappointed that 5x7 is being squeezed, but we will persevere in finding the distributor that will have less overhead and the balls to step out and offer what the larger corporations are not willing to. These entrepreneurial individuals in the future that posture themselves to offer us the products and services we desire, we need to identify and patronize in a big way. In the short term, stay enthused about large format, B&W and photography and take some time to share this with others that express an interest. It will benefit us all.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    There are more high quality new parts for Model "A" Fords now than there were in 1950.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    After spending the past 5 hours in the darkroom and winding up with 4 lovely, glowing, palladium prints my heart is filled with passion and a sense of accomplishment. To think that we may lose this would be a travesty.

    I for one can only hope that we will never be so bold as to think that digital imaging can replace an art as lovely ad B&W.

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    Digital Has it`s place (e-mailing a print for approval), but it cannot and will not replace silver prints for their graacious beauty ever. ?Have you ever eally seen a quality print by Ansel Adams or others close handd??? Absolutely gorgeous..B&W is not dead by a long shot........:-)

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    B&W die? Never. Sure corporations may drop product lines, and films may cease to be available, but as long as we keep shooting it will never disappear - even if I end up painting home-brewed emulsions on plastic sheets!

  6. #16

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I see B&W having a strong resurgence right now; The big thing being B&W portaits. I also see more than one B&W magazine on the newsstands. And although it is a C41 process, TCN and XP2 are good sellers. Remember that alot of real B&W paper is sold for printing this stuff. I also recently have seen a digital camera that shoots in B&W mode as well as color, and and seeing much larger foramts being looked at again. If anyone ever starts to produce a film in 12" wide rolls for self cutting with a devised propriety system, B&W as well as extreme LF cameras will take off. Dying? No.

  7. #17

    Join Date
    May 2000

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    Of course B&W is on its way out. So is color film and digital, you, me, the earth, and everything else that exists. So the point is not to worry about what is inevitable. Enjoy it while it is here.


  8. #18

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    I think that A.A. really put his finger on it when he commented that he could think of many photographs of great consequence (I'm paraphrasing) that were printed in black and white, but that he could think of none that were printed in color. (Even though, he took some excellent color photographs.)

    I think that the fundamental way in which black and white can convey the essence of an image is here to stay.

  9. #19

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    In Erik's original post, I took the phrase "as it exists right now" to be the operative question.

    Many of the replies here remind me of comments that my audiophile friends were making when CDs were released in the early 1980's. LPs and Shure V15-TypeIV cartidges would always be available because there would always be a demand for them. Well, new LPs are scarce, but Shure still makes a V15 (at least they did a year ago).

    Well, desire doesn't equal demand. Economic demand requires not only desire, but enough people who are willing to spend enough money to make an enterprise profitable. There is clearly enough demand for V15s but not for vinyl recordings.

    The end of the LP wasn't stopped by a small number of audiophiles who proclaimed the better audio quality of analog recordings. But fine music didn't disappear either. The end still lives, but the technological means to the end, changed.

    I would certainly argue that B&W photography will continue to thrive. But that doesn't mean it will thrive "as it exists right now". Fiber base high-silver papers have no equals right now. But images from high resolution digital sensors printed on those papers MAY come to equal or exceed the results from traditional film. And inkjet or other printers that produce equal or better results MAY be designed.

    So enjoy your B&W films and papers. They will probably outlive you and they may continue to be the best means to the end, fine B&W images. They will become more limited and expensive, but there may be enough TRUE DEMAND to keep some in production for decades, particularly since they can be manufactured on a small economic scale.

    But don't ignore the possibility that the technological advances, paid for by the masses yearning for 4x6 inch color prints of office parties and proms, may ultimatly lead to better means of B&W photography than what "exists right now".

  10. #20

    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Hope, ME

    So, IS black & white photography on its way out?

    In my opinion, silver-based, chemically processed imagery is on the way out and will be replaced by digital imagery. It's happening right now. Someday the traditional black and white processes will be considered "alternative processes" limited to the fine art market As a long time black and white photographer working in all formats up to 8 x 10, I hate to see this. Yes, the films and papers available today are excellent. But their future availability depends entirely on market forces, and I suspect the overall market for these materials is diminishing. How many films are available in 5 x 7 and how many of those films do you think there will be in 5 years? How long do you think it will be before Kodak discontinues Verichrome Pan, my favorite 120 film? Do you really think that the fine art market alone can sustain the profitability of these and other black and white products? Just look at how Kodak's stock has performed over the last few years. I am familiar with one major workshop program, and I know that in the last few years many of their photo workshops have had to be cancelled for lack of people signing up. I don't think they've had the same problem with their digital program. So this is probably what we have to look forward to.

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