Two little points to interject into the general conversation about the Wanderlust Travelwide Kickstarter project:
• Most people hated the darkroom. But only "most." Some people (one in 10? Two in 10? One in 20?) liked it. I knew people who only practiced photography because they loved darkroom craft. I loved everything about the darkroom myself, except the efficiency of image production, which was poor by any measure and is spectacularly poor by comparison to today's technologies. But a few people like it that way. Something to bear in mind. Amateur photographers aren't getting paid by the piece.
• Field view camera photographers have pretty much always been contrarians and outsiders, at least for my whole adult life. When people like George Tice and Steve Szabo and Jan Groover created the "view camera revival" in the 1970s, it was mainly because they bought super-cheap Deardorff 8x10's that had been discarded by older architectural photographers and started using them for artistic work. Even then, view camera photographers were outsiders, deliberately antiquarian, using anachronistic equipment. The "mode" became popular enough (behind things like Ansel Adams' Photography Series of books and Fred Picker's prosyletizing) that a number of small bespoke manufacturers of new view cameras sprung up (Wisner, Canham); a number of "field view" 4x5's were imported from Japan (Wista, Tachihara); and a few older manufacturers experienced renewed interest (Deardorff for a time, Gandolfi in England).
But digital certainly didn't kill large format, except possibly in studio and advertising (and those disciplines used monorails, not flatbed cameras). Large format photographers have always been individualists who go their own way. That's not a recent necessity.
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Featured Comments from:
R Hunter: "Well said, Mike. There is a contemporary artisinal movement under way that shuns things corporate, digital and mass-produced and embraces analog, individual and hand-crafted. The emergence of a hand-held analog sheet film camera fits pretty comfortably into that general way of thinking, and this isn't different from what you are describing, just a 21st century variation on it. It perpetuates the allure and myth of the great film photographers of the 20th Century. The (younger) people involved in this movement are price-conscious, but it isn't the highest concern. Rather, the individual experience that results in a high quality hand-crafted product or output (whether it's organic food, vinyl recordings or silver-based prints) trumps cost or difficulty. 'Individual results may vary.....'"
Gato: "Some good thoughts. I took up 4x5 in the late 1960s, just about the time a lot of people were dumping their equipment. One fellow who sold me a Crown Graphic refused to show me how to use it, saying, 'There's no market for it.'
"For me he was right about the market. I made my living with 35mm, but it turned out the only cameras I really enjoyed using were 4x5 view and field cameras. You could say that 35mm photography was my profession while 4x5 photography was my hobby. From the '70s into the '90s virtually all my personal work was done with a 4x5 Deardorff—a camera I bought as a basket case and rebuilt myself.
"For what it's worth, I was never much into landscapes. Where I really loved the Deardorff was in the studio—for still life and even more for portraits. I lugged the damn thing all over Texas—with a Majestic tripod and a case of holders—but can only think of two outdoor photos from it I ever printed and showed. But I have portraits and still lifes from those days on display in my home today.
"Of all my film cameras these have been the hardest to part with. In fact the Deardorff is on the shelf behind me, along with two Crown Graphics and an 8x10 Burke & James. And I can think of at least three more in the closet.
"Going back to the earlier post and thinking of the view camera in your closet, maybe there is a value to these things even if they don't make pictures. Maybe there is something to be said for the idea, just knowing that we gave it a try and the possibility is still there if the time is ever right.
"Maybe there is a value to the Wanderlust even for those who never use it, just knowing they were part of the project, that they helped make this kind of photography available and they own a cool piece of photographic history—even if they never make a single picture."
Arne Croell: "I love to work in the darkroom—I am actually building my fifth darkroom right now—and my main camera format is 4x5, since 1991. That makes me what—a minority of 0.01% of photographers according to your statement? I look at a computer screen most of the time already (like right now), and working in the darkroom is a nice reprieve."
Rahul: "Not sure if I still qualify as 'young' (28) but I got a view camera a year ago and love it. There is something about using your hands to create a photograph which appeals. As for the darkroom, I set one up a couple of years ago and, again, take every opportunity I can to use it. I suppose after a day of staring at a computer screen, I can't bear to edit pictures in Photoshop. I think the two sentiments described above go a long way in explaining why we are seeing a new generation using film."