Large Format..and the circle of Photo Life


They say life is a circle.For me it is a rectangle and a square.

I started with View Camera a very misunderstood item at the time and full of mishaps for me. It scared me.It was unsurmountable. It was in fact “OLD FASHIONED ” and I was a hip photographer who wanted to be like the guy in “Blow-Up” a very cool flick.So on the shelf it went and 35mm entered my life.

When I first cranked my Nikon, I learned how to blister my thumb on the lightning speed of film advancing…a crank at a time.It became a dance with subjects and put me into a rhythm that somehow became part of the picture process.Every third crank or so, I would lower the camera while cranking to take another “two eyed” look and come back to the viewfinder with a fresher eye.

As I progressed and graduated to the Hasselblad..(AHHH)..I still love to hold it and appreciate how dam well it was made… I wound instead of cranked and more often had to look up to get the “two eyed” view before firing the shutter. Twelve exposures and it was time to change backs or reload and take advantage of a time to think..or panic, like “crap I forgot to advance to #1″ or ” Is this really a model?” and sometimes,” do I really belong here???”

Then motors came in to my budget and wow look at me now, whirrrrrr…cachunk-cachunk..

Finally Digital came and larger cards and man the camera never leaves my one eye..I became like the Borg on Star Trek…attached to a device seeing the world in ones and zeros and moving through it with great speed. I started to fill drives adn spend endless time and money worrying how to save it all much less how to process it as well,now and God forbid, the future.

Dizzy from the spinning wheel of technology, I stepped off the merry-go-round to try and see the world stand still for a moment in hopes that my vision would clear…and I turned to an old adversary from the shelf who with age mellowed out for me…the 4×5.Its discipline has no forgiveness unless you can convince viewers that this is the new movement in the art world and you are its leader.

Under the dark cloth your view of the world becomes private, an intimate place where no one really knows what you are looking at.It becomes a space for study and second thought.Its methodical movements become a Zen experience once mastered, if that’s possible, actually enjoyed, like fly fishing, and art of execution.It is a deliberate choice of view with a rewarding image that often needs no editing, and the best part is, for a future back-up….shoot an extra frame.

There is also something to be said about filing the sheets as well,holding them and viewing them..like a jeweler with his loupe..a time for thinking,admiring,relishing if you will and looking forward to the next.

Now I’m no fool…for most of my commercial work especially these days,nothing beats a digital and I DO USE ONE and like it, but lately I am returning to where I started and feel more like a photographer than a Borg and I’m meeting many others who are feeling the same. For some it’s a discovery; for others it’s a circle.