High Speed Journey – Kodak T-MAX 3200 and Kodak Recording Film 2475 – by Erik Gould
New Kodak T-MAX 3200 (TMZ) is flat out great news for film lovers for the additional choice and for what it says about Kodak Alaris’s confidence in the market. The resurgent interest in film is real, and this is proof. For me, I have to admit I was never a big fan of TMZ. Maybe it was the hype that accompanied it upon its release.
Maybe it was the somewhat false suggestion of an over-inflated “box speed” being that it is an ISO 800 film. As an aside; Gordon Brown, the former Kodak engineer who coined the T-MAX name, confirmed in a recent Facebook post that the film was called T-MAX 1000 during the testing phase and the change to 3200 was an acknowledgement that in practice labs and individuals rarely use the ISO standard development for any film. Instead, they find an exposure and development plan that gives them what they feel is the best image for their purpose. I guess we have been doing it right after all. I would agree that in the case of T-MAX 3200 it does look better underexposed and more fully developed, aka pushed.
My heart belongs to another high-speed film in the Kodak line
The other emulsion would be the grainy, glowy film with the intriguing name: Recording Film 2475. 2475 was an ISO 1250 film available only in 35mm rolls. It had an extended red sensitivity (all the better to see you under tungsten light, my dear) and was coated upon a maddingly curly Estar AH base. Sadly, discontinued in 2000, but not before it worked some magic upon me.
My journey with Recording Film began in 1987 with an effort to make a grainy image that still had a relatively normal and printable contrast range. For a developer, I started with Rodinal but found that combination lacking something so soon, I was on the phone to Photographer’s Formulary, and they steered me in the direction of a pyro developer, specifically, Pyro Triethanolamine or Pyro-Tri. They were right, this combo delivered some mighty grain.
The initial project featured as subject matter exciting things like empty stretches of concrete and broken pavement but my school life was a whirlwind of study and work and girlfriends and heavy drinking. Soon enough this low light film followed me into the low-lit world that was my evening life and a second project was born. With my half-frame Olympus Pen FT (another acquisition in the pursuit of grain) always loaded with 2475 and always with me I tried to capture a sense of a life spinning out of control or at the very least, the beautiful faces of my friends and fellow drinkers.
Looking at these images even now is an experience fraught with emotion. I can also see the influence of the Japanese Provoke movement; I doubt I recognized that at the time. At 72 frames a roll I learned to allow space for happy accidents and to take chances. Studying contact sheets gave me insight into juxtaposition, movement and the power of a sequence. I realized that there was more to photography than just the single image.
Hoping to collect these multi-frame pictures into a book got me experimenting with non-photographic printing processes. I discovered that 2475 and Pyro-Tri created a grain structure that was both corse and sharply defined. So much so that a negative was able to “self-screen”; that is to generate its own random half-tone dot pattern when enlarged onto lithography film. I then went down a strange detour where I attempted a tri-color process. I soon moved on from that but not before I made a few Recording Film color photographs, extended red sensitivity and all.
I learned a lot from Kodak 2475
I did finally make a book with the half-frame pictures, printing a small edition of artist books in silkscreen. With it, I realized that photography’s natural home is in the book, and that is where I want my photography to reside.
I learned that a material can lead you to new places if you are willing to dig in far enough. I’ve long forgiven T-MAX 3200 for the discontinuation of Recording Film. 2475 is gone, but TMZ will soon be back. The journey remains.
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