I don't want to steal Ctein's thunder or step on his toes*, but his post yesterday inspired me—I took the money I earned on his recent print sale** and bought a Mamiya 7II and an 80mm ƒ/4 normal lens, and 20 rolls of Tri-X 400. (The link is to a new camera, but I bought a used one, for about half that price.)
No decision, though.
Frankly I already have several medium-format film cameras—just nothing that's really "taken." Maybe the Mamiya will. (If not, I'll turn it around—pace my comments about Leicas a while back, I figure the most I'm really risking is a few hundred bucks.) I just keep feeling the urge to get back into film again in a serious way.
I can find no reason to say goodbye to digital, though. I've been enjoying the Panasonic GF1 which is now my #1 digital camera. (How could I not? It's the DMD, the camera I said I wanted way back in 2005.) I'm even slowly learning how to use it, despite its absurd overabundance of features...I really do pine for simple, stalwart devices that are more controllable. (The more features something has, the less in control of it I feel.) I'll probably never not fumble with that horrid dial + button kludge, but meh, you make do. Nothing's perfect.
The one feature it doesn't have that I really miss is IS. I consider myself committed to the lens—the lovely Lumix G 20mm ƒ/1.7 ASPH. hits the sweet spot for me—but I'll replace the body as soon as something just as good that has IS comes out.
A more serious decision has been looming for me—the decision to get back into darkroom work. Not for the future, though—for the past.
For better or for worse, I shot 35mm black-and-white for some 20 years, from 1980 to 2000. (I was in art school from 1982 to 1985.) I have no idea how to count accurately, but I probably have between 50,000 and 80,000 negatives from those years, all told. And yet I've never truly redacted that work in any meaningful way. Of course I have great junk heaps of prints hither and yon, but nothing consistent enough to call a portfolio, never mind a single portfolio that truly stands as the Best Of all that shooting.
Until recently, photo paper had become a problem. Most of my negatives are Plus-X and Tri-X, and there aren't a lot of papers any more that "fit" the curves of those two films. My last "standard" (i.e., favorite) paper, Agfa Multicontrast Classic, is gone. But ever since the new Adox MCC (a clone of the Agfa paper) came out, it's been looking like an opportunity to me—possibly even a rather urgent opportunity—the chance to print a "master set" of the best 60 or 80 pictures from my 1980s and 1990s.
So here's what I've been thinking: set up a darkroom in the basement. Over the course of a leisurely year or two, print small editions of my best 60 or 80 pictures, maybe eight or ten of each. Of each batch, keep a handful, and offer another handful for sale on TOP.
I won't flatter myself that the world will beat a path to my door to buy my old snaps. But if I offered, say, five prints of each picture for a low enough price, maybe there'd be enough interest to keep the project solvent.
And then, at the end of that road, who knows? Maybe a book of some sort.
Ironically, the biggest problem I foresee when I contemplate this project is whether I'd have the discipline to stick to the task. I've always been curious, and I'd rather learn something from a failure than rehearse a success. I tried to do just about exactly what I'm talking about here in the mid-'90s—make a master portfolio of my life's work—but I couldn't stick to the hits. I'd get interested in negs I'd never printed, even if I knew they weren't great, and go exploring. Who knows whether another decade and a half of maturity—and the de facto end of my film photography in 2000—are enough to focus my fundamentally wandering mind?
No decision yet. But the idea is certainly percolating.
Mike*I've always loved the "block that metaphor!" tidbits in The New Yorker. The most recent one: "'When someone really gets their back against the wall and a white knight appears, the tendency is not to kick the tires as much as you should.'" Funny.
**I get a "gallery fee" of 20% for publicizing the sales here. The rest stays with the artist.