Editorial: Kodak Tri-X, making a living as an artist


Good old 5063.  I don’t know what else I can say about it that hasn’t been said before by someone better, but I’ll say this: it’s the best goddamn black & white film ever made.  And yes, it was used by absolutely everyone for decades; so many important and iconic events were taken on Tri-X that I think it’s earned its place as a cultural icon, a true American classic.  It’s still the best-selling black & white film today, so I’m not worried about ever going away, especially not when probably 90% of school darkrooms require it for beginners.

As far as the article goes, I remember reading it back when it first came out nearly two years ago, and it does play a bit sensationalist today, and there are some inaccuracies in there, such as the nature of Kodak Alaris, the maximum resolution of 35mm film, probably more that I can’t remember right now. Thankfully, we’re way past the stage of worrying about Kodak going bottom up, and have been since before this article came out.  It does amaze me that photographers on that level don’t know how long properly-stored film can last.

While trying to maintain a balanced dialog (of which the article does a pretty good job), the real question being asked here is in this paragraph: “…If it can be done digitally right up to the standards required by Salgado, is there any point to Tri-X? Is there any point to film?”  The question that gets asked by so many people.  Digital might be good enough for Sebastao Salgado, but it’s not good enough for Don McCullin or Anton Corbijn, nor is it good enough for plenty of others.  And also, whatever logistical problems Salgado faced shipping large amounts of film overseas, it hasn’t seemed to daunt Don McCullin. If you care about something, you make it happen.  And remember something else: if you keep buying it, they’ll keep making it.



I’m taking a music business course right now, so this topic is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot, but it seems to me that an artist and a businessman are two very different disciplines, nearly exclusively so.  Satchmo at the Waldorf is currently running here on UCCS campus, so having recently seen that, I’d say it’s a very relevant topic for me.  I can’t say that I’ve had much success on either side, so far and it can all be a bit daunting.  I made all of $0.01 in royalties from music last year, which is a step in the right direction I suppose, but a very tiny step.  I’ll spare you a long rambling post about the millennial generation’s entitlement mentality, and apathy toward value and ownership (for now), but the sad fact is that it seems to just get harder to make money on art.  That said, even Louis Armstrong wasn’t immune from getting fucked over, so do things ever really change?

Part of learning to be an artist/entrepreneur (something at which Armstrong never succeeded) is being able to adopt a very positive mentality about yourself, your work, your chances, etc, something that Hank Willis Thomas alludes to but perhaps can’t quite articulate.  Personally, I find it extremely difficult to remain positive about my future or myself in general, something that I’m sure holds me back to some degree; you’re much more likely to fail when you are already convinced you will. I used to be taken aback at the thought that most of my fellow students in the music program at Ohio State were studying music composition with the intention to become music composition professors.  What’s the point to a cycle like that?  These days, it seems like not a horrible fallback plan, but the business-minded side of me (a very small side admittedly) remembers how Hernando Cortes handled fallback plans…he sunk them.

So that’s a small part of my thoughts on making it as an artist.  Also, I’m sure marrying rich couldn’t hurt…


2 thoughts on “Editorial: Kodak Tri-X, making a living as an artist

  1. I still use the T-MAX 100 but since I have not always a darkroom at hand I use the Ilford xp2 film a lot. One of my favorite arguments for using film is that it feels more organic. A systematic pattern of pixels will not produce the randomness of halide crystals in an emulsion. ;D

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