Creative: Leica + TMZ, Why?

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11×14, warm tone, 300g, photo rag

As most of you know, I like my Fuji cameras. I really do. The first digital system I’ve enjoyed using. And I’ll keep using it. In fact I’m heading out this weekend, and I’m all Fuji. Including a new FujiRoid Wide 300 for my journal snaps.

But the recent rerelease of Kodak TMZ is actually rather impactful for me. This film is my all time favorite emulsion, palette, whatever you want to call it. There was a ten-year period back in the late 1990’s through mid 2000’s where this was really the only film I used. This was also one of the most important times in my photographic life. I was consumed by photography and was shooting every single day. Every trip, every movement I made was to make photographs. I had very little money, infrequent and unfulfilling photographic assignments, but I was also making the best work I have ever made. I was, most of the time, entirely on my own. I can remember leaving for a month abroad with one backpacking pack, my Leicas stuffed in unprotected, and JUST enough money to make it out and back. But I remember thinking, “Man, I’m cutting it really close financially.” Had anything gone wrong I would probably still be in the country. I remember backpacking friends looking at my finances and even they were worried I’d make it out. You KNOW when Lonely Planet types are worried about your finances you are cutting it thin.

But I was out exploring. Making pictures, finding stories, learning, experiencing. There was ZERO payoff really. Sure, the work was published from time to time, but that never really meant much to me, and financially it was, and still is, a total joke. This ten year period was when I actually became a photographer. Left alone to find and fully explore what MY view on the world really was.

The Leica and TMAX were two of the most critical building blocks. During those early years I tested and utilized everything I could get my hands on, and when the dust settled, Leica and TMAX were what I settled on.

I’ve included both an image and a print here, which are both examples of what I like about this film/camera combo. First, the Leica. Well, Leica’s are good for ONE thing, reportage, and if that is what you do then by all means. TMZ is one of the most difficult wet darkroom films I’ve ever tried to print, but when printed digitally this film REALLY shines. Just look at the attached print. Look at that sea of grain, but look at the sharpness, depth and dimension. I can’t get enough of this, nor is this something I’ve ever really seen replicated well with digital.

So, I have a small, upcoming project. Not this weekend but perhaps the next I’ll be out working on this story. No battery worries, no dust issues, no chimping, no storage concerns. Just Leica/TMZ. It’s time.

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  1. Boom Shaka Laka!
    Very exciting Dan. Hard not to get a lift from reading your fondly recalled story and romanticizing the “good ol’ days.”
    What a treat for you to have had a season like that!
    Anytime I see bricks of film, I day dream of what it would have been like to have been issued film in that format. Globe trotting or shooting some sort of reportage, shooting intentionally, creatively but with unfettered volume.
    Working it.

    Look forward to seeing what sort of crispy morsels get distilled on this pass!

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      Well, the good old days had their bright and shining moments, but it was never easy. I actually think life was a little better overall back then as the expectations for fame and success were not the driving factors, or at least not as much. There was also more time to work, and the general public viewed someone with a camera and credential in a very different way.

  2. Greetings from Ireland, Dan.
    Glad to hear that you intend to come back over from the digital dark side into the sunny uplands of film.
    Seriously though, I think the enduring appeal of film lies in the fact that you have to know what you are doing. Modern digital cameras can do everything except go out and take pictures themselves. My dog could take a perfectly exposed, pin sharp picture with a Nikon D810 – but I don’t think he’d get too far with a Nikon F3. The pleasure in using film comes from exercising a bit of know-how, a bit of skill. I use both digital and film: I appreciate digital but I love film.

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      Like seeing what I’m getting. I would have been happy with either, but also like the XT with longer lenses.

  3. How do you recommend / like to expose & soup it, Dan? D76 or TMax dev? .Have a fave recipe you can share? Just bought 3 rolls for my M6. 🙂 Its been a while.. Jeff

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      There are endless options. I’m a huge Rodinal fan but having said that I also like Xtol, Sprint Systems, etc. I’m sending my film to a lab that uses XTOL.

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