Street Photography with Black and White Film
• by Daniel A. Norman •
Street Photography with black and white film has for a long time been extremely popular in major cities around the world like New York City, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Street Photography has stood the test of time and remains popular today in cities around the world. Black and White Street Photography in film is still surviving in a world where digital photography takes center stage. Black and White film or monochrome, is the perfect medium for street photography because it instantly transforms a Street Photography image, like a scene in New York City, into a timeless work of art. The look of Street Photography with Black and White Film can be imitated with a digital camera, but a film rangefinder, loaded with b&w film is the classic tool for street photography. As a big fan of street photography with black and white film, who uses the streets of New York as the backdrop for my artwork, one of the most important elements for shooting black and white street photography is the film itself. One of favorite choices of film for street photography is B&W 35mm Kodak Tmax 100, but with the recent announcement from Kodak about the plan to sell off their 130 year old film business, it looks like Ilford will become my new favorite brand of film.
A few years ago, Kodak announced that they were selling their film business. This made me think about the future of film photography, and my future as a film street photographer. There were several articles about this in The British Journal of Photography & The New York Times. Kodak is actively trying to sell off the film business. Does this mean and end to Kodak film as we know it? Does the mean the end of film photography is near? Not in major cities like New York, where film photography labs still exist, and artist and film photographers still roam the streets looking for the next moment to capture. I personally develop my own black and white film, and then scan it into a digital image. This workflow gives me the best of both the digital and film street photography worlds. It allows me to mix the pleasure of film photography with the convenience of digital photography.
With all the modern digital camera’s available, I still enjoy shooting New York Street Photography with black and white film and on a rangefinder camera. My camera of choice is a Leica M7, with a Zeiss Planar T 50mm F2 lens, and Kodak TMax 100 black and white film. One of the classic rangefinders, the Leica M7 is a decade old and is still in production by Leica. I applaud Leica for still producing film cameras in a digital era. Film rangefinders have a much longer lifespan than digital cameras, and they hold their value a lot longer. Is there any digital camera that has been in production for ten years, yet remains on the cutting edge of technology? I doubt there is. In fact, a film Leica M3 that is over 50 years old is as useful today as it was when it was made.
Leica ‘s rangefinder cameras have been a part of street photography going back to the great Magnum Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who’s foundation preserves his amazing contribution to street photography. I also use a Voigtlander Bessa R3A with a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm 1.4 lens. These Japanese made Voigtlander cameras and lenses are really well built, and make a great addition to any rangefinder collection. Shooting street photography with black and white film with my Voigtlander rangefinder is always a rewarding experience. Even though rangefinder cameras, which are perfect for street photography, are still being made, will 35mm black and white film always be available? We can only speculate.
If Kodak sells off the film business as planned, will the TMax 100 film be the same product? Will the Portra 400 , Portra 160, and Ektar 100 color films be the same as they are today? These are concerns that I have because it seems like the sale of the Kodak film business will mean an end to Kodak film as we know it. Kodak will still keep the motion picture film business, which trickles down the technological advancements to the consumer film division, but does this also mean an end to advancements in black and white and color film technology for consumer film? I, like many other street photographers and fine art photographers who still use film, are concerned with the future availability of film.
read more: film street photography