Little deaths

Today, Kodak announced it was ‘retiring’ some medium format films that don’t have a market in the modern world. The rumour mill goes beyond this saying that TMax/TMZ 3200 is off as well (which is a bugger as it’s what I have in my camera right now) and that their C41 process film is likewise discontinued. Beyond a few internet forums the news won’t make a splash – the world has gone digital no matter how may dedicated thousands continue with film. The market speaks and another unique way of looking at the world dies.

Yesterday, I read about the ‘death’ of Bo. A language with a last speaker with no one to talk to is always intriguing, hence why Celticists know the names of Ned Maddrell and Dolly Pentraeth. Bo’s demise brings forward the discussion about how important the language we speak is to the way we understand the world with romanticists and free market buccaneers arguing the toss with no chance of ever coming to any form of agreement. I know nothing about Bo but when these things are discussed in the UK the matter of bilingualism in Wales is always raised and I’m on nodding terms with Welsh to the extent that I can watch Sgorio Cymru in the original (I’m prouder of this than my also having read several complete novels in the original Cymraeg not least because I couldn’t repeat that trick now.)

The romanticists – and analogue film dreamers – might have a somewhat idealised view of the uniqueness of these niche ways of describing the world (little languages; old films in discontinued formats) but I can’t abide the smugness of those who say the market decides as if this was a morally neutral viewpoint. The market seeks that which is least offensive, least challenging. And whilst I’m not a snob by any means in that I can easily accept that being populat doesn’t stop something also being artistically good I worry about a world in which everything is determined by market usefulness and profitability.

And from a camera viewpoint the digital revolution has brought forth cameras that are technically wonderful and use the liberating benefits of new technology to improve people’s photography every day. But with shared sensor technology and no distinctions between brands the only reason people choose a Canon over a Nikon over a Sony (or vice versa or mix n match) is because of comfort – there’s no ultimate difference between the end results of the output of most DSLRs. That was never true when you were choosing TriX over Neopan over HP5 (for example).

That said, I also think David Bailey is talking cock when he says that everything on flickr looks the same. Go figure.

And whilst you do that, see this shot, taken on digital (but at ISO 3200 in the film’s honour), large here.


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