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!