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Saturday, 04 May 2013


Thank you Mike, for making a point I could never articulate so well. I sometimes envy writers who do it so well.

To quote Elwood Dowd

"...there is a little bit of envy in the best of us, and that's too bad, isn't it"



Would this work?

"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."


I'm sorry, but this is just not so. Almost every serious worker I knew, from the late 60s up to around the year 2000 - and I knew quite a few - used large-format equipment. There was no need for a "revival" because it never went away. Schneider LF lenses were state-of-the-art and under constant development and improvement. Sinar launched their revolutionary all-metal 5x4 and 10x8 monorail system in 1947 and their even more revolutionary Sinar P system in 1970. Linhof Technika 5x4s were "standard issue" for landscape photographers. And every, but every, architectural photographer used LF.

I'm talking about the UK, of course, but I don't suppose for a moment that it was any different in the USA. We here have always followed where you lead - and I don't just mean Iraq and Afghanistan - and US photographers were well-known, and imitated, for their devotion to large-format. That doesn't mean that there were no bargains to be had - the newspaper industry was still clearing out its cupboards of folding 5x4 cameras - but the notion of the LF user as some weird outsider is itself so weird and off the mark I just don't understand where you are coming from.

[I'd guess it does depend where you're coming from, David, or which room of photography's many mansions you're looking at. I'm talking about the fine-art, scholarly-historical perspective. I know LF never lost its lustre (or usefulness) in several genres and fields. What I said wasn't true at all of other disciplines like studio advertising and tabletop for instance. But in the fine arts universe, for LF was for a time considered fussy, the province of fogeys and fuddy-duddies. Heck, even St. Ansel used a Hasselblad for the last 20 years of his life! --Mike]

I'd have ignored the Travelwide if not for the fact that I already had the lens, which I never use otherwise. So, for small dollars, late-format wise, I get a toy. But bluntly, it IS a toy, especially when you can get a functional 4x5 with far more options for not much more. But toys are important! Holgas are stupid,broken, silly cameras, but people have fun with them, so if most the folks who get a travelwide are foced to use it as a pinhole camre due to lack of affordable glass...well, the ilford/titan 4x5 pinhole is still more expensive:)

Loved the darkroom when things went well ... hated it when it didn't, which, sadly was all too often. The problem with my darkroom was it took a while to set everything up, so there was a tendency to push on even when I knew nothing was going to plan.

Photoshop may be a bit detached and lacking in soul, but at least I can walk away when I get frustrated.



I recall when I first started using the view camera 25 years ago back in the film days it was considered "old school" even then as there were more efficient cameras to use, like a medium format Hassleblad. For my personal work I use LF, I have always thought that its a unique camera, looking at the image upside down and inverted, a truly pure image, plus I find an enjoyable camera to use.....Also I thought I would mention its a discussion that seems to come up from time to time in the new age digital world we live in, back in 2007 I even wrote a blog post:


I guess using a view camera does look a bit odd these days, while photographing at a mountain lake in Canada a while back , another photographer saw me with my antiquated equipment set up lakeside and called me a dinosaur! he mentioned that he had just sold his view camera and bought the then newly introduced Nikon D800. The D800 might be the wiser choice these days.

The 4x5 polaroid is gone (and you get only the 3x4 which is just ok for 6x8 (cm) not 4x5 (inch)). Having said when mine shipped and if it worked, it would be my polaroid. My Polaroid one does not work well (and too heavy to carry around).

I actually like my 8x10 more than my 4x5. Other than the weight, 8x10 you can use your eye and not loope, as long as you are not expecting Ansel Adam sharp and you do not enlarge. It is quite good.

I actually looking at Impossible 8x10 polaroid currently but buying a us$1.5k (hand rolled) "development machine" (which is just a two roller combined) is hard to pay for these day. But 3 years ago when I am more into 8x10 or it got a cheaper option now I might just pay for it and be happy. Each photo would be around US$10 but that is alright. No dark room and immediate 8x10 result (especially the hand rolled one). Just a bit too expensive and hence Impossible for me currently.


You can process 8x10 Polaroid/Impossible with a simple sheet metal roller. Check out this post I made on the LF forum: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?102169-8x10-polaroid-processor-how-much&p=1022833&viewfull=1#post1022833

The new color 8x10 materials from Impossible are amazingly good!

@ R Hunter: "There is a contemporary artisinal movement under way that shuns things corporate, digital and mass-produced and embraces analog, individual and hand-crafted."

There is an irony that a group embracing the analog then has to rely on a corporate industrial organization to make multi-layer chemical coatings on a plastic film or the machines to press grooves into PVC. The industrial corporations are the only people that can make those products at a reasonable price. There are no artisanal film or developer (or sensor) manufacturers.

Photography is a technological art and it requires industrial backing in all of its forms either digital or chemical.

Even folks who make their own large format wet plates have to get their glass, silver nitrate and all the other bits from somewhere. This is going to be a problem for large format photographers as film production continues to drop.

I'm sure there will be a future generation of kids that will rediscover early digital cameras and use that technology ironically too. Youth culture is all about rebellion and differentiation from their parents generation after all.

I felt like I had to back these guys just because they were cool enough to make a prototype WITH A 3-D PRINTER.

I fully admit to not having much use for a 4x5 camera ... but I figured I could find someone in town who would want one.

The whole discussion around this is interesting to me since as a species we photo hobbyists seem to constantly pine for someone to do something different, and then constantly complain when someone does. Anyway, this is a clever idea with a clever implementation. You don't often see that these days.


Believe it or not, there are actually people making artisinal films and developer! Check out the epic work of Denise Ross. She has been documenting the creation of (among other things) an orthochromatic B&W emulsion that she hand-coats onto sheet and roll film. It's amazing, and makes you realize that film will never truly die.

I don't share your reading of analog materials, so I don't see the irony you're pointing to. I use analog film because it's more technologically advanced than the primitive digital technology of today. Besides, most people are not shooting film or listening to records as a protest of global capitalism—they're doing it because they like the results.

Beyond that, there's nothing uniquely technological about photography. Painting is just as dependent on industry and technology. I suppose you could grow flax to make oil, various plants to make pigments, cotton to weave into canvas and pine trees to make frames. You'll also need to make your own oil press, mortar and pestle, crucible, forge, hand loom, axe, saw, nails, brushes, glue, as well as a miniature distillery for turpentine. That's a lot of technology! And to make any of those items in quantity, you'll need modern high tech industrial production, with its computerized factory automation, etc.

I am not sure that in late film days large format photography was the province of the contrarians in at least a few areas of photography. For example, except for a few exceptions (with good "excuses" such as Galen Rowell's adventuresome style) most professional nature photographers used field cameras. When I took up large format, I didn't feel like a rebel, but rather someone following a well established tradition.

All right, I've been a view camera guy for 30 years, and a professional longer than that. And I have had at least one foot in the art world for as long... so of course I know the work of both George Tice and Jan Groover. But I can't remember seeing any work by, or writing about, Steve Szabo. Could you enlighten me, and perhaps the rest of us?

[Steven Lee Szabo was a top Washington Post photojournalist for a decade or so, then quit to become an art photographer. Beginning with a project and book called "The Eastern Shore" making Pt./Pd. prints from 8x10 Deardorff negatives...in an attempt to get as far away from newspaper work as he could.


He was coupled for years with Washington D.C. gallerist Kathleen Ewing, one of the founders (the founder?) of AIPAD. He was one of my teachers at the Corcoran School of Art, where he chaired the Photography Department. Sadly he died far before his time, of MS.

Steve was the reason I went to the Corcoran, and we ended up being friends. Although I learned a lot more from some of my other teachers...Steve and I just saw eye to eye, and I found I engaged more with the teachers whose world view was further away from mine. --Mike]

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