Reintroduction of Fuji Acros – Acros II

It’s true! Fuji has recently brought back Fuji Acros in the form of Acros II.  The announcement was made by Fujifilm Corporation on November 13, 2019. The film was first introduced in Japan but is now available in the US and other markets.

From Fuji’s website, https://www.fujifilmusa.com/press/news/display_news?newsID=881726

TOKYO, November 13, 2019 – FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Kenji Sukeno) announced that the new generation of NEOPAN 100 ACROS II (ACROS II) black-and-white film will be available in Japan starting November 22, 2019. After the initial launch of ACROS II in Japan, Fujifilm anticipates introduction of the black-and-white film in select overseas markets, including the U.S., by early 2020. The reformulated ACROS II film has all the most-loved features of its predecessor, including unsurpassed high-resolution, fine grain and sharpness. To meet the needs of film enthusiasts of today’s market, ACROS II will be available in 35mm and 120 size formats.

Utilizing Fujifilm’s proprietary Super Fine-Σ particle technology, ACROS II offers a high-level of granularity with pristine resolution achieved at a sensitivity of ISO 100. Fujifilm has achieved this level of image quality at high-sensitivity due to its longstanding history of film development and manufacturing, which has allowed it to precisely control the size and composition of silver halide grains contained in photographic film, contributing to the final image quality and aesthetic in prints. The sharpness achieved in ACROS II film will detail fine textures, making it an ideal selection to use in a wide-range of situations including landscape, portraits, commercial, architectural and even astronomical and night photography. Building on these characteristics, ACROS II will offer slightly higher contrast gradation in highlight areas when compared to the conventional ACROS film.

As the demand for film decreased and raw materials became difficult to procure, Fujifilm discontinued the sale of black-and-white film in 2018. Due to recent interest from millennials and GenZs, who have become the newest film enthusiasts, Fujifilm developed a plan to revive black-and-white film to meet new market demands.

As a leading company in the imaging field, Fujifilm will never stop striving to meet the diverse needs of customers in a wide range of fields, from analog to digital, and continue to provide improved products and services.”

 

Life Magazine and the Power of Photography

Life Magazine and the Power of Photography, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey. Through June 21, 2020

From Princeton University Art Museum, https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/art/exhibitions/3612

“From the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, the vast majority of the photographs printed and consumed in the United States appeared on the pages of illustrated magazines. Offering an in-depth look at the photography featured in Life magazine throughout its weekly run from 1936 to 1972, this exhibition examines how the magazine’s use of images fundamentally shaped the modern idea of photography in the United States. The work of photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White, Larry Burrows, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Frank Dandridge, Gordon Parks, and W. Eugene Smith is explored in the context of the creative and editorial structures at Life. Drawing on unprecedented access to Life magazine’s picture and paper archives, as well as photographers’ archives, the exhibition presents an array of materials, including caption files, contact sheets, and shooting scripts, that shed new light on the collaborative process behind many now-iconic images and photo-essays.”

Words & Pictures

Dorothea Lange, Words & Pictures, Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York. Through May 9, 2020

From MoMA, https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5079

“Toward the end of her life, Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) reflected, “All photographs—not only those that are so called ‘documentary’…can be fortified by words.” A committed social observer, Lange paid sharp attention to the human condition, conveying stories of everyday life through her photographs and the voices they drew in. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, the first major MoMA exhibition of Lange’s in 50 years, brings iconic works from the collection together with less seen photographs—from early street photography to projects on criminal justice reform. The work’s complex relationships to words show Lange’s interest in art’s power to deliver public awareness and to connect to intimate narratives in the world.

In her landmark 1939 photobook An American Exodus—a central focus of the show—Lange experiments with combining words and pictures to convey the human impact of Dust Bowl migration. Conceived in collaboration with her husband, agricultural economist Paul Taylor, the book weaves together field notes, folk song lyrics, newspaper excerpts, and observations from contemporary sociologists. These are accompanied by a chorus of first-person quotations from the sharecroppers, displaced families, and migrant workers at the center of her pictures. Presenting Lange’s work in its diverse contexts—photobooks, Depression-era government reports, newspapers, magazines, poems—along with the voices of contemporary artists, writers, and thinkers, the exhibition offers a more nuanced understanding of Lange’s vocation, and new means for considering words and pictures today.”

The State of our Supply

Things really are not so bad when it comes to black white film, paper and chemistry for silver gelatin work. Same goes for the chemistry and papers to make alternative emulsion processes.  Despite what some would have the uninformed think, film is not dead and traditional wet-based prints made from film are also alive and well.  There certainly was a time when the analog world was starting to look a little bleak, but that’s no longer the case!

Certainly if you are a fan of Kodak products there fewer films available and paper is no longer being produced, but Tri-X, for example, still lives on in its latest formulation along with D76 and HC-110 to develop it!  Ilford is still going strong; recently they introduced a range of new papers to update their VC line that compliments their beautiful Gallerie graded paper, and their films are still widely available. While the pickings might be slim in your local brick and mortar camera shop, Freestyle Photo, B&H and Adorama to name a few, have thriving storefronts and online sites so you can get whatever you need.

Checking out the Freestyle’s site I see listings for 26 brands of black and white film and 7 brands of paper available. In the case of film, there are a variety of choices up to 8×10. Less for 11X14, and beyond that you are talking about special orders to the majors, most likely for group purchases. But, Fuji Acros is back from the dead in the form of Acros II, available in 35mm and 120 formats.  Fuji originally discontinued Acros due to decreasing demand but according to the company “ due to recent interest from millennials and GenZs, who have become the newest film enthusiasts, Fujifilm developed a plan to revive black-and-white film to meet new market demands”.  Just like vinyl records, film will just not go away, due in part to resurgence of interest from younger generations.

When it comes to alternative processes, one only needs to visit the websites of Bostick & Sullivan, Artcraft and Photographer’s Formulary to stock up.  All three provide raw chemical components for those that like to mix their own, as well as premade products, including their own proprietary formulas.

Hey, even instant film is back along with the cameras to use it! 35mm, medium format and large format cameras are still being made and there’s a ton of high quality used gear out there that will work flawlessly for years to come. Enlargers are still being manufactured too and Jobo is producing their wonderful film processors again.  And more good news – used darkroom equipment still can easily be found at great prices.

Yes, film and paper costs have risen and we don’t have all the choices we once had. On the other hand we have some wonderful new film, paper and chemistry choices that were not available in the “good old days”!

All things considered, I would say the state of things is fine and life is pretty good!

Michael Marks

Welcome to Monalog™

After I attended the last year’s Photo Arts Xchange organized by Steve Sherman and a number of other fine black and white photographers, I started to think about what I could do to further support a vibrant black and white analog photography community. I already had my own website that focuses on my love of black and white film photography and the darkroom, but I wanted to do more, and I sensed that there would be others that shared my passion and felt the same way.

At the Photo Arts Xchange I met a number of outstanding photographers that worked exclusively with black and white film and used only traditional wet processes to realize their exceptional vision. I decided to reach out to them and other like minded photographers I knew that I thought would be receptive to the idea of creating a photographer’s collective who’s sole mission would be to “support black and white film photography and traditional printing processes”.

The founders of this collective make silver gelatin enlargements, contact prints on Lodima and Azo paper, platimum and albumen prints and prints using carbon transfer processes. They use 35mm and medium format rangefinders, medium format SLRs, and a range of wooden view cameras that produce images using 4×5, 8×10, 11×14, 8×20 or 14×17 inch negatives. We all used different tools, films, chemistry and papers to create our art, but we share a love and unabiding commitment to black and white film and traditional printing processes.

We have chosen to call our collective Monalog™, a new word derived from “monochrome” and “analog”. We chose this because we don’t make color prints or incorporate anything digital in what we do … no scanning of negatives, no creation of “negatives” from digital files, and no digital printing of film negatives. This having been said, our objective is not to make judgments about color or digital, but support what we use and care deeply about.

Monalog was formed by six founding members: Mel Evans, Jim Fitzgerald, David Haas, Jim Kipfer, Michael Marks and Drew Wagner. Our goal is to grow through membership of fellow “monalog” photographers that are dedicated to this wonderful medium and exhibit a high caliber of vision and adherence to their craft. We will also engage with others, individually and through collaborative activity, and support the industry that makes all this possible.

As best as I can tell, there is no other collective like Monalog. I hope you will join us on this exciting journey!

Michael Marks
Doylestown, Pennsylvania
March 9, 2020