My choice for black and white film has always been Kodak T-MAX, so when the news broke the new/old T-MAX P3200 version was coming back I was excited. I called the company that imports Kodak film in the Netherlands and asked them to send some as soon as it came in. It had been in my possession for a few weeks until mid-May when I had the time to test it during a concert.
I remember the last time I saw one of my favorite acts Sohn perform that they had their own light show and it looked amazing. This time they played in one of the classic venues in Amsterdam: Paradiso. It’s an old church where pretty much every pop artist you’ve heard about the last 50 years has played. I shot one roll during the start of the concert with my Canon EOS 1V and a selection of Carl Zeiss ZE lenses – the 85, 50 and 35 mm, mostly at f/1.4 and f/2.0.
I went home and developed the film in the native Kodak T-MAX developer for 9½ minutes in a rotating Jobo @ 24 degrees Celcius or as the Americans say, 75 Fahrenheit. Which is pushing the film from the box speed of ISO 800 two stops to 3200 (the DX code does tell the camera to shoot @ 3200). After throwing away the one-shot chemistry, I used Tetenal’s stop and fix bath. Interestingly, stopping is almost immediate, so 30 seconds is enough and the fixing rolled on for 4 minutes. I rinsed the film with water for some time and ended with a mineral-free water bath with a drop of Tetenal Mirasol.
When I scanned the negatives I didn’t like them much at first, the grain was fussy and there was little sharpness. T-MAX is known for its extremely fine grain which wasn’t part of what I saw, I saw a rather rough structure and didn’t know what to think.
The day after I selected the 5 most interesting photos and started printing them. Once I had those 24 x 18 cm prints in my hand the whole picture changed.
I loved the grain, it only made sense this way. Instead of a lack of sharpness, the grain became part of the aesthetic structure. It’s a very specific look and you have to love this for what it is, a pointillistic piece of work, because if you want to get the most sharpness it would probably be better to shoot T-Max 400 pushed one stop @ 800.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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