The Texas series films

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For the 4x5 Texas series, I chose expired color films because I knew they’d fulfill the cinematic and tonal references I’d had in mind, especially through the old glass of my Kodak Ektar lens

Having used b&w films on most of my prior road explorations, and never wishing I’d done otherwise, when I set out to document the Texas landscape all I could see was color 

It’s not that Texas is more colorful than the other Southwest states I love and have explored over the years, but I couldn’t escape seeing this book filled with color photographs 

Not ‘true color,’ however, but a kind of color that would both match my references and do justice to the subjects, which, in many cases, are as faded and color-shifted as the old films themselves 

In color, this landscape demands being photographed a certain way; anything too accurate would draw many of these subjects unnaturally away from the contexts in which they seem to so comfortably exist. There is a timelessness and fragility to much of this landscape, and so film too new would be asking too much of it

And for what I’d had in mind, the tonal quality of the photographs needed to have a paleness, a softness, a mutedness - all things that contribute to the distancing of our stance in relation to the subject necessary to give this series and its scenes something perhaps even quieter than anything I’ve ever produced photographically, which it seemed to demand  

The expiration dates of the films ranged from 1992 to 2009 and consisted of both negative and positive types - all Kodak, Readyload and sheet 

While some of the old positive films didn’t hold up as well (especially when poorly stored, expired positive films tend to shift heavy magenta), I was extremely happy with the negative films I chose 

The photograph above was made in Valentine, Texas with 17-year-expired Vericolor III. Amazing film 

If you can imagine for a moment this photograph having been made with fresh slide film, for example, and through a new, beautifully coated lens. It wouldn’t work. Or at least not in the same way; a different story is then being told. And one that I wasn’t and am not interested in telling 

And digital image capture is simply out of the question  - without the use of any kind of filtering and heavy post-production, which digital images require to get any kind of feel from them, you’d be faced with something thin and cold and lifeless 

When using expired color films, which I of course recommend if you’re looking for similar results to what I’ve described here, they should be given good overexposure. This also contributes to a smoother and flatter photograph, which I prefer and required here 

However, there can be grain increase with some expired films - this was noticeable with the Pro 100 (especillay in the Paris, Texas photos from the series). But at the same time, the Pro 100 had some pretty incredible color shifts (toward yellow) that I absolutely love  

All of the various variances and factors played very well to the overall feel of the series  

The Portra 160vc was probably ‘truer to life,’ but, still, due to the bit of overexposure I treated it with, and with the old Ektar lens, I was able to match it nicely with the other photographs in the batch 

While there are differences in quality between some of the photographs in the series, each film did its share to contribute to what very much feels like a consistent and uniform tone and, more importantly, feel 

Very pleased with the photographs  

Was a long haul - 25 days on the road, 5000 Miles, 297 exposures 

Trial and error, mistakes and triumphs  

The old Graflex Speed Graphic held up well, as did the lens (a highly recommended 4x5 camera, should you be interested in that format) 

Editing for the book is moving along nicely (Feb 2018)

Feel free to ask any questions about the film and so on. There’s a lot of the old stuff out there, and it’s certainly fun to experiment with 

And if you visit A PLAIN VIEW under SHOP, a few of the film types I used are listed 

Jason Lee3 Comments