When it comes to the equipment and materials I use it would seem I am a creature of habit – I tend to find something I like and stick with it. This is because I do not want to be too reliant on anything other than myself to create what I think is a good photograph. I do not feel the urge to try different types of film, paper, cameras or lenses in order to achieve results.
One side effect of this approach though is that I develop an intimate relationship with the things I do use, learning all their various characteristics and foibles. This familiarity and close partnership does lead to some fantastic results which, ironically leads me to becoming reliant on them in order to achieve my images. So yes, a vicious circle, but one that on the whole I am happy to accept and live with.
Until something I use becomes unavailable. Then suddenly I feel like I have lost a friend or even part of my anatomy. This may sound slightly drastic and change, of course, can be positive. After all when I first started using fibre based papers as a student I was recommended Agfa Record Rapid. It was a beautiful warm paper, but I never truly managed to fall in love with it. Then Agfa stopped making it and this forced me to find something new. I went for Kodak Ektalure and this time I did fall in love. Head over heals. It was a beautiful, extremely warm thick heavy paper. Its tonal range was stunning: Deep, deep blacks contrasted with creamy whites and every conceivable tone in between as it took you through the most beautiful transitions. On top of this was a matt texture with an almost hand made quality to it. We got on fantastically well and the relationship lasted many years. And cost me a small fortune.
Then Kodak stopped making it. And not only that, this tragedy coincided with me no longer having a darkroom – a time when I was struggling with my own demons and self motivation. For eight years I lived with this cloud over my head. Not a big one – after all, I knew I would start printing again one day and that would mean having to find another paper – but it was big enough. It became yet another obstacle for me to deal with, another issue I would have to solve. With hindsight it is surprising how much it did play on my mind. After all, finding a new paper to use should have been the least of my problems and perhaps even an exciting challenge. But it was one of the many excuses I used to put it all off a bit longer. Who knows, perhaps it did prolong my exile from the darkroom a little.
And now? Well, with a bit of research, some instinct and recommendations from staff at silverprint in waterloo I went for Fomatone 532. Its early days still, and nothing can replace Ektalure (as so many people discovered) but the early signs are good. Again it is a heavy fibre based paper, beautifully textured and with lovely warm tones. It’s not quite as thick or warm as Ektalure was, but I prefer the surface texture and the not-quite matt sheen it has. I have not seen it framed and behind a sheet of glass yet, but that is something I am looking forward to rather than worrying about.
I think I may well start to hope that this may be the start of a long and fruitful life together. Wedding bells may be ringing some time in the near future.