End of an Era

End of an Era

Photographer: Jason Hill

This photograph is ten years old, but I'm posting it on Silent Landscapes with today's date. In the name of progress, and perhaps economy, practicality, reliability, etc., the world of photography where I grew up is being forgotten. This photo was captured with Kodak Ektachrome E100VS, a process E6 slide film grown out of a continuously developed professional line of films dating back to the 1940s. When I took this photo, a 36-shot roll of E100VS would set you back about $6, and developing plus mounting would cost another $12. Yes, every single photograph used to cost real money.

I was backpacking across northern Sweden and Norway with roughly 200 rolls of film when I took this photo. I had a roll of Kodak Plus X Pan 125 (one of my favorite black and white films) in my camera when I came upon this forest. I made the decision to rewind past the rest of that roll and insert a roll of E100VS. I had other E6 films with me, but I knew the saturation profile for E100VS would capture the forest in a certain way. My Fuji films would have captured the greens and blues too strongly. I needed something that would desaturate the cool colors and warm up the temperature, emphasizing the sparse reds in the trees and on the trail.

At the time, it felt a bit fraudulent. This photograph, which is not much altered from the original scanned slide, doesn't look like the forest that was in front of me. As an artist, I used my experience to create the scene, and I abused E100VS to make the forest appear the way that I saw it in my mind. I'm left with a physical piece of film, surrounded by a plastic container. It takes up space. It degrades over time. It's a real physical object, not capable of being altered, but it doesn't represent the forest in front of me as much as it gives the image that was in my mind. As a photographer using Ektachrome, I felt like I was capable of creating landscapes, and those landscapes had a physical reality as slides in an album on my shelf that is more real than the images they contained. The forest you see in the photo never really existed, but this slide does. That will always amaze me, and it feels much more real than digital film ever has for me.

E100VS is no more. Ektachrome film supplies at retailers may last another half year or so, but Ektachrome is no longer being produced. That makes me sad. Ektachrome was a good and reliable friend to those who knew it.