Cameras

The photographs in this series were taken by medium-format mechanical cameras using 120mm black & white negative film.  The cameras, as seen above, are the:   Mamiya C330 Twin-lens reflex (six lenses), Mamiya 6 rangefinder (three lenses), Hasselblad SWC (fixed lens), Hasselblad 500C/m SLR (six lenses) and either a Zeiss, Agfa or Balda folding camera.


Each camera has its own strong points.  For instance, the Mamiya C330 can use colored filters on the lower lens to adjust the film’s contrast while leaving the upper lens clear for viewing.  The Mamiya 6 is best for spontaneous, hand-held shots.  The Hasselblad SWC has the widest undistorted angle available.  The Hasselblad 500C/m system includes the 500mm Zeiss Tele-tessar lens for telescopic compositions and any of the folding cameras can be carried in a jacket pocket.


Negative Film

Camera film did not vanish with the advent of digital photography and its popularity is more than nostalgic. 

A fine grained negative image is equivalent to a 500 megapixel digital one.  Scanned files have more than 600 megabytes of 16 bit information to work with.  A mechanical camera can take an eight-hour exposure in sub-zero temperatures.  In 100 years, a properly stored negative will not have changed.  Using film affects how you take shots.  By not getting instant playback while naturally wanting to conserve film, the photographer slows down and considers each shot differently from unlimited digital captures.




Gelatin-silver Fiber-based Prints

Images on the internet only hint at the clarity and detail of a fine-grain gelatin-silver print.  It’s ironic that companies like Ilford, Agfa and Kodak were just perfecting grainless film technology when the digital revolution arrived.


“When people visit my studio they eventually ask why I still take photographs using film.  I show them three prints of the same image.” 


“One is an inkjet print, which is extremely sharp, but the ‘ink’ of the print rides on the paper’s surface like a poster and can dissolve in moisture unless coated.” 


“The next is a lightjet print on color paper, aka a ‘C’ Print.  A black & white image on a C-print has a color cast that shifts under different light sources, a phenomenon called metamerism. That, combined with the color dye’s tendency to fade over time, leaves the 170 year old gelatin-silver process the choice of serious collectors of black & white photographs.  Also, the silver crystals embedded inside the gelatin of a ‘darkroom’ print have more depth and tonality than the other two papers.  Finally, when the gelatin-silver prints are toned and preserved with selenium,  they have unsurpassed richness and permanence.  It’s all about the feel of the final print.”


“There are now a couple labs in the country that can expose digital files onto silver-gelatin paper, but the darkroom is where I transform the negative into a final print.  For me, it’s a major part of the creative process.”