This wonderful article was lovingly created by Hugo, a 2021 Rozelle Darkroom Intern
If you have ever dabbled or danced with a black and white film, chances are you’ve seen some sort of Double X in one form or another.
Double X is a Kodak motion picture film stock originally made in 1959 for use in motion picture cameras but, it is only just recently that I have learned that many photographers have been using this stock for still photography. Upon hearing that, I immediately became curious as to its abilities and results.
Abilities and results which I will say now, are limited…
But limitations can lift the burdens of freedom from the creative process and push you to compromise and make final decisions.
I’ve been using Double-X almost exclusively for the past few months and it has fast become my favourite film to use. Oddly, it’s not Kodak who sells this stock! Most famously, I think people would recognise CineStill’s XX black and white film as the go-to choice.
So, why are the likes of CineStill and others selling this stock and not Kodak?
Since Double X is a motion picture stock, it’s only available from Kodak in 400ft and 1000ft rolls. Unsurprisingly, these are unlikely to fit in your standard camera. But along the way someone, somewhere had the bright idea to buy these bulk rolls and hand spool it into 35mm film canisters. Ready to shoot. Unsurprisingly, buying in bulk is a very cost-effective way to produce rolls of film. This is why most companies selling Double X can do so at a competitive price compared to other black and white stocks.
In Australia, Double X is spooled and sold by Melbourne Film Supply (MFS) and Ikigai Film Lab, both averaging at about $15. Both are the exact same stock as CineStill, minus the markup to cover import from the U.S. This film is cheap. And if you can facilitate the spooling of your own canisters, you can really stretch your budget.
Now, let’s talk about the look.
A key point to understanding this film is recognising that it was meant for motion. Double X has a steep gamma line, which means that this film behaves like a slide film as it’s meant for images that you would project, like a slide stock. So, Kodak’s intent was to create a stock with a grain that dances on a movie screen, creating depth and character. And with that in mind, portrait photography might be something worth exploring with Double X.
The main thing that stands out about Double X is its strong, apparent grain, especially for a medium-speed film rated at ISO 250/200T. Traditionally, you would want a fairly fine grain at 250.
That said, Double X is truly aesthetic. It’s gritty, it skews darks and will almost certainly blow your highlights with ease. It almost behaves like a slide film. It shows grain but not in an overbearing manner. The tonal range of Double X is more dependent on lighting than any other film I’ve used. The lighting doesn’t have to be professional, but even and bright are a requirement. If you’re outdoors on a cloudy day and the light will vary from moment to moment, you’re not going to have a good time.
But on a completely overcast day where the lighting is more even or you’re indoors and it’s well lit, then you’ve got a winning hand. And you can always result to pushing 2/3 stops which can yield beautiful results. Double X transitions dark to light areas softly as compared to other black and white film stocks. The contrasting edges are somewhat mushy and lack apparent sharpness.
Double X is far from the sharpest film. In ideal conditions which can be hard to achieve, sharpness of 100 lines per millimetre is the limit and can get as low as 32 lines per millimetres in imperfect conditions. But these “limitations”, the gentle dark-light transition, the softness of the edge is what makes them ideal for a portrait.
But the main reason I picked up a roll of Double X was for street photography. Which might just be a paradox to everything I’ve just said.
The street is one of the most unpredictable environments you can put yourself in. However, the look I was left with was something to behold. It reminded me of the black and white street photography of decades past. And when ISO was pushed to 800 or even 1600, the feeling was a surreal, crunchy, high-contrast aesthetic.
Like I said, limitations can be creative. Usually, the tonal range of a street scene is quite wide so decisions must be made and quite often you will have to sacrifice your highlights or your shadows. This is even more exaggerated by the qualities of Double X.
It is for these reasons that I Love this film. It forces you to consider your choices even further than just shooting on film in general.
This article and associated photos were taken by Hugo, one of the wonderful interns at Rozelle Darkroom. If you’re interested in Double X, send him a message on his Instagram.
This wonderful article was lovingly created by Hugo, a 2021 Rozelle Darkroom Intern
In today’s article, I discuss the history of the infamous photographer Vivian Maier and the important role she plays in the history of photography.Vivian Maier is undoubtedly one of the most alluring film photographers in history, not only in terms of her approach to the art of photography but also in her ability to capture decisive moments.
Vivian Dorothy Maier was an American street photographer whose work was not discovered until after her death in 2009. She was born in the Bronx borough of New York City, US to a French Mother and Austrian Father. Although born in the US, it was in France that Maier spent the majority of her youth. In 1951, Maier returned to the US where she took up work as a nanny and caregiver for the rest of her adult life.
In her leisure, however, Maier had begun to venture into the world of film photography. She consistently took photographs, encapsulating the world around her, she would ultimately leave behind over 100,000 negatives, most of which were shot in Chicago and New York City.
She also indulged in her passion for documenting the world around her with homemade films, recordings, and collections, assembling one of the most intriguing insights into American life of the second half of the twentieth century. Vivian Maier was an intensely private and guarded person, carrying with her a sense of mystery. It was these characteristics that aided her in her street photography, always remaining from the public eye so she could genuinely capture rare and candid moments of day-to-day life.
It was not until 2007 (two years before her death) that Maier’s large body of work was discovered. Her photographs were uncovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side by the man – John Maloof. From there, her photographs would unknowingly impact the world and change the life of the man who brought her work to the public eye.
Over the course of her career, Maier used numerous SLR cameras, including a Rolleiflex 3.5T, Rolleiflex 3.5F, Rolleiflex 2.8C, Rolleiflex Automat and several others. She also later used a Leica IIIc, an Ihagee Exakta, a Zeiss Contarex and various other SLR cameras. With the growing popularity of film photography, these cameras are still available to live out your Vivian Maier fantasies if you are lucky enough to find one!
Vivian Maier’s work predominantly depicts black and white images of the people and places where she resided (including New York City and Chicago). Luckily, Maier also took self-portraits, usually of her reflection in storefront windows or simply of her shadows. In doing so, we can put a face to the infamously mysterious, Vivian Maier. In the 1970s, Maier began to shoot more colour street photography, using mostly Kodak Ektachrome 35mm film (which has since unfortunately been discontinued). Her colour work was much more abstract than her earlier black and white street photography. There is a definite shift in her subject matter when you compare her earlier work to the latter.
Vivian Maier really took advantage of natural light and shadows, especially considering that majority of her photographs are in black and white, working with light proved to be necessary to create photographs with high contrast and juxtaposition. She was lucky enough to live in extremely buzzing cities, so she had constant access to imagery of architecture, people, and places.
What fascinates me most about Vivian Maier, is that throughout her entire life, not once did she share her body of work. In fact, she did quite the opposite, she hoarded all her negatives and undeveloped film. I draw a lot of inspiration from Vivian Maier because I find myself naturally imitating her style of work. She almost took her photographs in a ghostly manner, she was rarely seen or heard during the process, and in doing so she could effectively capture these moments of the human condition.
Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and catalogued for the enjoyment of others and for generations to come. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian Maier’s work is part of the film photography revival and its domination of the photographic industry and its future.
The most important thing in portrait photography is not the camera, the lens, or the lighting. It’s the subject. Working with the person in front of the camera and finding out just how to capture their unique presence is a critical skill.
In 1941, Yousuf Karsh took one of the most widely reproduced images in the history of photography, the scowling, defiant portrait of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill. Karsh had set up his lights and camera hoping to capture a photo after an important speech but nobody had told Churchill.
‘You may take one.’ Churchill said. I’ll defer to Karsh’s telling of the moment that followed…
“Churchill’s cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically. I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar. I waited. Then I stepped toward him and, without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, ‘Forgive me, sir,’ and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph.”
This post was written by James Gray, a member of Rozelle Darkroom. James focuses on portraiture and studio photography work. You can find the original article here and his Instagram here.
Every project I do at Rozelle Darkroom is informed by my mission directives which are promoting the film photography darkroom crafts as well as promoting slower thinking. It’s one thing to come up with a project and another to skillfully execute it and to ensure its greatness. I have created so much mediocrity in my life and it makes me sad. I suppose the only way though to create greatness is to have a baseline measure to compare yourself with. Many find this measure in other peoples work, but I feel it is more revealing to reflect upon your own self, and then compare that state to your work as improvement is a function of introspection just as much as it is a function of retrospection.
I apologise for my rampant paraphrasing but Steve Jobs once suggested that the greatness of a product is the sum of the greatness of all the constituent processes involved in the creation of the product. In order to achieve greatness, I must granularise all the processes that are part of a project and elevate them. With larger projects this may be difficult as processes may lie out of my expertise. If I attempt a process like that I cannot ensure the highest level of quality. As well as this, another conundrum is time. Beautiful multifaceted and complex projects require many high quality ingredients which all require the investment of time.
The only answer to these challenges is delegation, which in itself has the power to bring people together as a community working towards one goal. Through the creation of large projects which require levels of process delegation, we are able to produce impactful material that satisfies our joint goals of protecting the antiquated craft of film photography and the darkroom craft.
Boob Camera – Dark Mofo
Due around July
Dark Roze Zine
First of May
Some projects. I don’t like how normal they are… More innovative plans are to come!
If you have a project idea, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to collaborate!
This photoshoot was last minute planned with my friend Madison we decided to spend the whole day creating a cloud wall to do artistic portraits of an ancient goddess. We decided to make the cloud wall ourselves.
The cloud wall took three hours to make using cardboard boxes held together with good old duck tape, polyester stuffing found in cheap pillows from KMART and a ton of PVA glue to hold it all together. It was a laborious process but the results were worth it and we had a lot of fun that day. We filmed the timelapse below.
The images came out perfectly!
Big thanks to my beautiful model Madi and also Rozelle Darkroom for space
Caitlin is a member of Rozelle Darkroom. She joined in late 2020 and has been avidly using the studio while she progresses in her photographic career. You can find Caitlin’s Instagram here and her website here.
I think in order to be a good teacher, it’s important to be a constant learner. I’ve taught quite a few classes on film processing now and my teaching process has become a welled honed routine. I open with the chemistry of film, follow with the chemistry of developing and end with the practical component of spooling, mixing chemistry and developing. It’s a pretty straightforward class that enables the pupil to gain a level of control over the photographic process that they previously didn’t have. The repetition has also given me much control over the content, perhaps to the extent where some of it becomes repetitive and bland to me…
One thing that never gets dry is the diversity of my students. Their varied interests, backgrounds, professions et al. enrich them with different strains of curiosity. What’s more, is the varied modes of expressing this curiosity. Some students really smash you with questions, whilst some remain silent, yet answer all questions that you pose on them. This dichotomy is fiercely satisfying.
Another aspect that’s satisfying is learning from my students. Admittedly, I’m not particularly skilled in technology, especially smartphones. With that said, one of my students Chris (and now an intern at RD) showed me a cool trick to use your camera phone as a positive loupe!
In order to do this you must first have a smart phone. Most people have an iPhone so I’ll go through how to do it on that.
First open your phones settings and find and enter the accessibility sub menu then find display accomodations then toggle invert!
If you use smart invert it increases your IQ by 4.20% – FACT.
After this open your camera and voila – you have a super cool inverted loupe! The only downside is that if you take a photo it will not be inverted (as the screen is only inverted, not the camera). In order to invert the actual image when your phone is in normal mode you’ll have to invert the image in an editor!
A few photographs from one of our cherished members Horst. Note the different film stocks and their unique differences.
Horst is a film photographer based in the Blue Mountains. He is known for his quirky approach to film photography – most notably his use of alternative processing methods in the darkroom. If you ever need any film photography or processing related information – Horst is your man!
Cameras are a bit like cars, pets and sentient alien robots… you don’t choose them, they choose you. When you first set your eyes upon the worn exterior of an old vintage camera, you’ll notice that it’s looking right back at you. It want’s you to give it a shoot, just like a dog wants you to throw that damn ball.
This is how I met the Mamiya C3.
I had only been shooting film for 6 months when it had become an apparent intuitive necessity to grab a decent quality medium format camera. During this period, I was staying in the small town of Mullumbimby in Northern NSW where I came across a large antique shop, Urban Archeology.
As I was buying some groceries From IGA and Santos Whole Foods on the main strip of town, I notice a huge twin lens reflex camera, it’s lustrous finish gleaming at me through the shop window. Having been just after tax return time, I figured I’d be foolish to pass this shop without checking out this old gem.
Urban Archeology was teaming with relics from the past: clothing, shoes, vinyl records, turntables, furniture, wardrobes, typewriters, artwork, masonic badges, tools, and of course, several vintage cameras. By this point in my film photography phase, I had become tech savvy enough to test and determine whether old film cameras were in working order or disrepair. The Mamiya C330 I saw through that window, is not the Mamiya C3 I ended up with; the bellows were falling apart and the leaf shutter mechanism was far gone. It was a shame to discover the Mamiya wasn’t worth my time and money to enquire for repairs, so I settled for a compact 6×9 Zeiss Ikon Nettar 105mm f3.5 for a few bucks instead.
I got chatting with Dwayne, the man who was selling all the old cameras, and I expressed my infatuation with the worn out Mamiya C330. Impassioned by my interest in actually USING the cameras as opposed to wanting them to pretty up a mantlepiece, Dwayne invited me to his Barn nearby in Bangalow to sort through and name my price for crates worth of old photography gear.
At Dwaynes barn, I sorted through a few crates of old cameras, and picked out a few that got me giddy. The last crate contained SIX Mamiya C system TLR bodies and several Mamiya C Sekor Lenses. All of these Mamiya’s were in various states of condition, most had crumbling bellows, stuck leaf shutters and busted mechanics… After a quick Google, I spent time learning about the Mamiya C series TLRs while Dwayne played Tom Petty from his barn while he varnished a vintage cabinet.
The TLR format camera is a particularly quirky system. You compose your 6×6 square frame through the waist level finder, and shoot from the hip. Learning to shoot from the hip with waist level glass is a bit confusing, it’s a similar sensation to driving a boat for the first time; articulating the camera and adjusting the frame is dizzying and can take some time to learn. Most TLRs including the C series also have a magnified focusing loupe, and a mini viewfinder “sports frame” which you can compose fast moving subjects through, all without having to look down into the ground glass. The primary benefit of the Mamiya C TLRs is that they are extremely modular and versatile in operation, especially the older C3 variant. These systems boast interchangeable lenses that swap out both the viewing and taking glass (top lens = viewing glass for composing, bottom lens = taking lens that actually exposes the film). The older C3 has seperate roll film and multiple exposure / plate mode which allows multiple exposures without having to crank the film advance lever. All Mamiya C variants also have a safety plate that can be engaged when changing the lenses whilst the film is in the camera. This safety mechanism has however, ruined far more shots than it’s ever stopped the risk of light leak…
Upon re-educating myself, I propose to Dwayne that I rebuild one Mamiya out of parts salvageable from the others to make the perfect custom shooter. I swapped out a beautiful 80mm vintage lens that perfectly complimented the exterior of the C3, then swapped out the bellows for another set that was near mint. I also refitted another Mamiya’s ground glass and waist level assembly as the C3’s glass was barely transparent. Half an hour later, Tom Petty is singing “Runnin’ Down A Dream”, perfectly narrating the feeling I had with my newly assembled mutant Mamiya. $300 later, and I’ve scored a bargain with 2 spare lenses (which evidently needed repair anyway).
When I got my first roll developed from the C3, it was mostly unexposed except for one terrible image. The pesky safety plate that covers the film when changing lenses was accidentally engaged, thanks to my general ignorance. It took a fair while for me to remember to disengage the safety plate while shooting, which in itself is pointless as the 80mm was the only lens that I ever used on it.
I also noted in the early days shooting the C3, is that it’s INSANELY HEAVY due to the Mamiya’s all metal construction. To give comparison, it is only a fraction lighter than the infamous Mamiya 6×7 RB/RZ models. This is the C3’s largest drawback, especially if you look at how light and portable other TLRs like the Rolleiflex, Yashica Mat 124 G and Minolta Autocord are compared to the C3.
Another drawback of the C3 which other TLRs exhibit, but is no where near as pronounced, parallax error. Given the distance between the viewing and taking lens is 2 inches vertically, what you see is sometimes not what you expose on film. Focusing on closer subjects within several or less than a meter, approximately 1/4 of the top of the 6×6 frame will not be visible on the film; that also entails 1/4 of what you don’t see bellow the ground glass frame will be captured. Active awareness while composing images in reference to parallax error on the C3 is paramount to getting any desired results. This is slightly aided by the C3’s ground glass guidelines and a Para-Meter behind the ground glass that changes as you focus. Parallax also greatly affects the plane of focus when composing and shooting a photograph. The 2” lens variance shifts the already shallow depth of field away from your subject, unless you keep it steady and level; a good solution for this is a cold shoe mounted spirit level.
The first image I took with the C3 of Lake George perfectly displays the result of ignorant parallax error. The rock face is far higher in the composition than desired [cropped sky from 6×6], the focus barely renders detail in the rock and scrub of the foreground, whilst the background is nothing but grain and bokeh. For months, I was ignorant of the fact that the C3, with the 80mm lens, was not designed for tricky landscapes with foreground elements. Serious hyper focal distance calculations should be considered when composing landscapes with foreground elements.
I have had the Mamiya C3 for nearly 2 years, and I feel I’ve only just reached the point where I am comfortable and confident shooting it. Due to the serious quirks and drawbacks of the C3, I avoided shooting it for some time over my Yashica Mat 124 G. However, after my Yashica drowned at Byron Bay and suffered salt buildup, the C3 became my primary 120 shooter. This camera in particular was very popular with pro wedding photographers, who knew how to properly negate drawbacks such as parallax and hyperlocal distance scaling in realtime. 2 years ago I would cringe in scorn at this, but the Mamiya C3 is the type of camera that will only perform when handled with experienced, confident hands.
As my confidence and experience grew, I began packing the Mamiya on every trip I took, using it whenever I had enough time to execute perfect 6×6 photographs. One such instance, I took it to Mount Banks in the northern Blue Mountains, between Bilpin and Lithgow. This is when the magic began to happen. The actual negatives from this trip were completely over exposed and extremely dense, thus after hours of scanning and post production, I manually extracted all the tonal information and brought everything I could out from the negative. The sharpness of this particular 80mm lens ensured this dense negative’s recovery in high res post. To further illustrate the miracle of recovering this negative, I made an archival inkjet print on 20”x20” Canson Photographique Rag paper, which, when viewed, the grain structure and sharpness suggests a window back to that beautiful day where the wispy clouds were waiting patiently in place for me.
As the Mamiya C3, and most other medium format cameras utilise a leaf shutter, the camera is able to shoot at any shutter speed up to 1/500th with no rolling shutter when used in a studio under flash lighting. With this in mind, I shot this high speed abstract image of an aquarium filter suspended by fishing wire on a C stand pole, dripping with Silvo Polish and milk to create a self produced redesigned album art commemorating the 20th anniversary of Massive Attack’s landmark album, Mezzanine.
Alternatively, shooting freehand is a breeze at extremely slow speeds once the photographer can comfortably combat parallax and shallow D.O.F. focusing. The leaf shutter is near silent and does not contribute to camera shake, thus a steadied photographer and subject could achieve a sharp exposure at speeds as slow as 1/30th on a standard 80mm lens. This is essential when working in natural light, or with continuous tungsten studio lights. The subject, if human, must control their pose and be ready to remain incredibly still, as the photographer slows their breathing, exposing the shot whilst slowly exhaling. My most recent foray with the C3 was in June, when I visited Wentworth Falls and met an older gentleman, Ramzi, a veteran photographer who posed for a portrait and gave me some good tips.
In regards to location and street photography, the C3 is cumbersome to say the least, however it still delivers, again, if the photographer can navigate the operations of the TLR comfortably. On the street, you’ll be given quizzical looks from most, whilst those few in the know will stop and goggle at the strange contraption in amazement. However, for the right compositions, I found no issue using the C3 recently in the Cook Islands, where I kayaked between deserted islets photographing the tropical landscape. When you’re living by island time, the Mamiya C3 is the perfect camera to appreciate your surrounds whilst building significant strength in your forearms.
The Mamiya C3 is one of the most difficult cameras to use, whilst also being the most rewarding. When I first purchased it from Dwayne in Bangalow listening to Tom Petty (who passed away the day after), I was a film rookie rediscovering photography after shooting digital for years. After years of ‘Re-learning’ photography, I felt confident enough to ditch everything and paddle to deserted islands with nothing but my C3, a light meter and a tripod.
Cameras like the C3 force us to drop all the gadgets like autofocus, metering, auto exposure / priority modes, heck even the choice between ISO, colour or monochrome. These limitations force you to knuckle down and focus, to really appreciate and capture the moment; they force you to learn photography.
Article and photographs created by Jzawo English.
His instagram can be found here and his personal website can be found here.