This wonderful article was lovingly created by Hugo, a 2021 Rozelle Darkroom Intern

Grainy, contrasty and affordable. I would be suspicious of film reliability though…

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Double X is a Kodak motion picture film stock originally made in 1959 for use in motion picture cameras but, it is only just recently that I have learned that many photographers have been using this stock for still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.

The artwork on Double X canisters is always unique as these canisters are hand spooled.

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.

Artists Old And New Writing


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.

One of the many self portraits (selfie lol) of Vivian Maier – She was keen on these

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.

A haul of lab sleeves found at auction. Imagine sucking these up!

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.

She was very keen on the candid street photography that is very quiche now!

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!

Oh that juicy Rollei

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.

Studio Writing

On Portraits

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.”

The Roaring Lio n, a portrait by Yousuf Karsh
The Roaring Lion, a portrait by Yousuf Karsh

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.