Kodak Tri-X 400 - Project Dad
At the beginning of this year, I set out my usual photography goals. Debrief the successes and failures of the previous year's projects and plan new ones. The biggest failure of 2016 for me was quitting a 365 project half way through, but the reason for that, without going into too much detail, was simply that the act of grabbing an image every day for a year wasn't making me a better photographer, it wasn't inspiring me to tell stories, it was merely a chore I needed to get done and the photos began to reflect that mindset.
So this year, when my mind started ticking over ideas, I knew it had to be something more than just clicking a button, it had to be something that wasn’t left to chance, it was something that I could actually get to end of. I decided to shoot what I know.
I’m a father of two kids, aged 3 and 1 – so when I’m not tending to their immediate needs like food, nappies, more food and cleaning the occasional vomit, I’m generally documenting them with a camera. I had my struggles as a parent and the more I spoke with other dads, the more I saw they did too, yet no one really spoke about it. That was that, my 2017 project was going to be a series of documentary-style portraits of fathers from all persuasions and their relationships with their kids.
I knew right away I wanted to shoot the whole thing in black and white, for me colour can often be too distracting and I’m often guilty of thinking an image is great on the basis of colour alone without truly looking at the subjects or composition.
I decided to shoot the entire thing on Kodak Tri-X 400. Sure the emulsion has been modernised over the years, but if there is a father of black and white film, Tri-X has to be it. It was a stock I could load into a camera before a shoot, and no matter lighting conditions I was met with, it would perform. With Ikigai Camera on board to support the project, I soon had a fridge brimming with golden TX400 boxes and set out planning shoots and interviews with 30-40 fathers.
I’ve shot both 120 and 35mm throughout this project, the 35mm for the fast-moving documenting of kids being kids and medium format for portraits. Rated at 400, Tri-X is untouchable in open shade, if you’re dealing with harsh Queensland midday sun like I often do, the contrast can pop a little more than you’d hoped, but the tone you end up with in open shade is nothing short of beautiful.
1600 is as a far as I’ve had to push Tri-X so far during this project. I’m a fan of contrast, so the increase when you push the film two stops is definitely pleasing to me, especially in low light situations where you can use it to separate your subject from a background or isolate them from other elements if your frame. I do find that Tri-X likes a touch of overexposure so will often find myself rating at 320 or 1250 (when pushing to 1600).
What’s there left to say? If I had to compare Tri-X to Hp5, I’d say that Tri-X certainly has that classic rendering we’ve all seen in some of the world’s most iconic images throughout the past half century or more, but feel Hp5 does do a better job being pushed, especially in the shadows. Both can be fast, both can be slow but I always seem to come back to that classic black and white look.
Project Dad will be available as a book later this year, featuring images and interviews with dads from around the country.