New and Old…



Chamonix 810V, Nikkor-SW 150mm f/8


By way of an explanation…

After/during a long pause (work-enforced) from my photography, I’ve made the decision to move up to 8×10 for B&W inc. for contact prints (e.g. toned cyanotypes; Van Dyke Brown; possibly Platinum/Palladium).


Will still use the trusty Linhof Technikardan S45 for colour slide on 5×4 but really want to give B&W contact printing a good go – a drive to put more of myself – and art – into the images I make: a drive to add personality and a sense of my own time, my own subjectivity, into the photographs I make.


Just about ready; only major outstanding item now before I can get cracking on making exposures is a BTZS dark cloth and a Lee wide-angle bellows hood, in the post.  Many thanks to Tim Layton for allowing me to take the Nikkor SW150 off his good hands.  Also have 300W and 450M so most things covered lens-wise.



The decision is prompted by the sense of a convergence in my creative mind between photography and my academic work, especially in terms of the interrelation between photography and the cultural histories of the novel and poetry, and ways of articulating a sense of connection-cum-remoteness from the ancient world.


I’m in the early stages of writing an academic paper on lyric time, photography, and literary modernism for an international conference on ancient Greek lyric poetry, and have things to say about Proust and Pindar; I’m also interested in contemporary conceptual landscape photography as a response to the environments and histories of Britain, and am currently getting absorbed by W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.


The move to traditional printing and alternative processes is another way for me to explore the tension within me between old and new, both intellectually and personally; there’s a sentence in Proust about us being amphibious beings, with one part of our minds in the present and another submerged in the past, and it is this that I want to get in touch with more directly through immersing myself in the history of photography practically through the use of 19th-century techniques and the eschewing of modern technological interventions as far as possible – hence contact prints directly from 8×10 negatives.  If successful, I hope to make prints on  them on traditional 12×14 cotton paper and float-mount them in large frames with 16×20 mats, exposing the brush strokes as well as the images.  I will probably re-shoot some of my favourite 5×4 black and white images, but also will be on the lookout for new subjects, ideas, and compositions.  Because the work is about process as much as end result, as much about concept, formal texture and materiality as about content, the process is as much to do with the 360º experience of working this way than is about other ephemeral things that other photographers get easily absorbed in, such as perfect light and perfect locations.  This doesn’t mean that content will not matter but the balance will hopefully be better.

I’m not planning to give up on 5×4 or colour film, but traditional 8×10 is likely to be a great deal of fun and an intriguing adventure.


Here’s a portion of a set of comments from somewhere on the largeformatphotography forum that also struck a chord:


The 8×10 contact is a canonical form with a deep history in photography.

Grievous error aside all 8×10 contacts are technically equivalent; mine, yours, Ed Weston’s, Ansel Adams’.

No upgrade is possible or necessary.

Enough possibilities for a lifetime of work.

No elaborate darkroom is required, no enlarger; just a safelighted work space, a lightbulb, and a few trays. [And NB with alt-pro you don’t even need safelight-conditions, so long as you can develop your negs properly; I’ll be using BTZS tubes.]

I can do everything from film exposure to mounting, matting, and framing. No need to buy expensive services from back-room people.

No competition. Why would I strive against 50 million hard working and talented digital shooters climbing over each other’s backs trying to get noticed?

Anything well photographed on 8×10 seems to acquire a nobility that invites attention.

Ultimate conceptual integrity. The 8×10 is seen, exposed, processed, finished, mounted, and displayed without changing its original size or its original vision.

There is no cropping. The photographer takes full responsibility for the content right to the edges and corners. The viewer knows they are not short-changed.

No digital technology is used or required. No files need reformating into new media. Everything is eye readable. The medium guarantees it.


Here’s a view of the bag setup that I hope to use for the new gear:


Tenba BYOB 10 holds filters and tripod head.

Thinktank Shapeshifter expandable backpack holds lenses (in Tenba wraps) in the interior neoprene compartments (inc. happy to say both 300W, and 150SW even on a Sinar board), a couple of Chamonix 8×10 dark slides in the laptop compartment, and other accessories in outside pockets.

Thinktank bag also doubles as my travelling backpack for digital if I am shooting macro overseas (which I haven’t now done for a number of years but never say never…) 



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