Thursday, February 27, 2014

Returning To Kodak

This year I have decided to shoot a lot more 4x5 film.  That means much less shooting, and more concentration on making sure that the shot counts!
Using my Calumet CC400 Monorail is not the easiest camera to use in the field.
Alright, lets face it, it is downright near on impossible, but I do it!  I get it into the field all the time that I can and use it.  Whether it is a wide-angle, standard, or a telephoto lens, I just find it most relaxing.

I have entirely dedicated this year to three film stocks.  FP4+, HP5+ and Fomapan 400.  I love all three films, but have a preference to HP5+ just because it is such a gorgeous film!  That said, however, I cannot deny the classic emulsion of Fomapan 400, and the wonderful contrast of FP4+.

I returned to the Kodak Plant here in Toronto, well at least what is left of it.  I spent a fair amount of time here in the past, and plan on revisiting it again, this time with more film, and possibly some EKTAR 100 and Provia 100 for some of the desolation and using my ultra-wide angle lenses.  Although those Ultra-wides aren't QUITE up to 4x5 snuff, but really damn close enough to work.  Those lenses would be the ones I pulled off a pair of Kodak Brownie folders, and one off a Agfa Billy Record.  Some 105mm lenses off the Billy Record, which normally covers 6x9 beautifully, but actually gives some really lovely coverage on 4x5 film as well.

I wandered into the plant and had one shot in mind.  The front foyer and stairs.  Once a grand entrance, with beautiful brasswork and wood rails and marble stairs, they now lay in complete ruin and are no longer the joy they must have once been to look at.

I visited this place recently with my Kodak Signet 35 and Kodak Gold film during my previous 52-rolls and made it the finale to the Month of Kodak in March of 2013.  This time however, I will be entirely dedicating my time to 4x5 film.    As such, a month of Kodak would entail using ONLY Kodak Film with a Kodak lens.  Since I have not committed to Kodak film this year, that will have to pass.
I wish I had +Mathew Marrash's Kodak Commercial D 8x10 camera with one of his gorgeous Field Ektar lenses, but alas, I do not.

My wife, +Donna Bitaxi, worked for Kodak many years ago at this very facility.  But when they decided to consolidate their chemicals into a third party company, and began the shift away from traditional B&W photo papers, their plant closed.  My wife, offered a position and moving expenses to travel to a different location in British Columbia, declined the offer, and stayed in Toronto, where she eventually met me.
She worked in the Black and White Photopaper packaging department, and like many of us, spent plenty of time under a red Safe-Light.

Sadly, in 2005, this plant closed its doors for good.  In late 2006 the demolition companies were called in and within a couple of short years the plant, save for Kodak Building #9, was erased from the map forever.
Who owns this land and the last building upon it, I do not know, but it is a place for firebugs, graffiti artists, vagrants, and Urban Explorers.  I took a few Digital Images where I was there this time, as I had my Rebel XS and 50mm lens, and figured it would be the best choice to capture some quick shots.

Image taken on a Calumet CC400 4x5 Monorail, Kodak Ektar 127mm ƒ/4.7, Ilford FP4+ 125 @ 125ASA under natural light.  Exposure 8s at ƒ/8.  Metered for a 4s exposure and added 4s for Reciprocity.
Today, this is what the stairwell looks like.  Crumbling, broken, and ruined.  A sad testament to what it once was, and possibly what lies ahead for the Film Giant in the future.

Until next time fellow bloggers... Keep this shutters firing!


  1. Interesting you mention this. I just picked up some TMAX this week when I was in Portland after shooting a lot of Ilford the last several months. I wasn't aware of the history here.

  2. Yup. Toronto was actually a massive Kodak facility. If you see any of those old Folders and Brownies, such as the Tourist, the Vigilant, even a Duaflex, they were manufactured right here at this facility.
    From chemicals, to photographic paper, film, and cameras, including Kodachrome, this facility did it all.
    By the mid-70s to early 80s it was pretty much a small town on its own, employing more than 5000 people!
    When this facility closed, it was a huge hit against our economy, but when the company was hemorrhaging money, they had to do something.