As recently advertised through my Facebook page, a 1981 Hasselblad camera enlarged ArtEO’s family! This post will explain you the reason behind this choices and will provide you with some of the first samples I shot to illustrate the different arguments!
First of all, what is a Hasselblad camera? Hasselblad is the name of a Scandinavian firm who famously designed arguably some of the most iconic medium format cameras of all time.
Medium format means that the photo is recorded on a 60*60mm negative film (compared to 24*36mm that you may know as your standard).
The model we re using now belongs to the old 50X series and for the record, it is the same model which took the photos on the moon when Mr. Armstrong first landed onto the satellite!
The object is entirely mechanical, no batteries needed, a true clockwork! It does look pretty, it sounds magical! I took it to town the other day and got stopped three times by people who wanted to see it… A proper nerd magnet 😀
I believe my first encounter with medium format photographs was when discovering the work of Nina Korhonen with her book Anna, Amerikan Mummu and not long later through Alessandra Sanguinetti with her books about Guile and Belinda and On the sixth day. Two photographer that would permanently shape my idea of a landmark photography wise and be the start of my ever growing photo book collection about Family. I guess you can call this “love at first sight”! I promptly invite you to discover their work, a very different look and feel setting it apart from anything you know. Don’t be mistaken tho, Nina is now a recognized master (Her book being quoted in the ideal collection of Martin Parr) and Alessandra works for Magnum (Most probably the most iconic photo agency of all time). You would be foolish to believe buying a medium format camera will make you a master, but I strongly believe it grants you access to a whole new range of possibilities!
This said, what can an old 33 years old analogue camera bring on the table that my pro digital SLR cannot achieve faster and better?
Those who have been reading me for a while, know that I’m a digital native and strongly advocate the use of digital over analogue, right? In this specific case, in order to shoot in digital medium format, I would have to sell my car and spend my savings to get a camera… The old analogue medium format camera remains affordable and still produces mesmerising results!
So, what is the difference??
First of all the amount of details recorded onto the film is just phenomenal. The possibilities offered are just immense: much more details in the shadows, the highlights and a billion shades of mid-tones. I gave it a try the last few weeks in probably what seemed to be the very worse shooting conditions and it almost systematically turned out to be a hit!
It deals surprisingly well with multiple mixed light sources (incandescent bulbs, neons…etc.)
What would have turned to be a digital porridge of colours and noise with the SLR comes as very natural on the 60*60 film without the use of a flash.
The colors appear much richer, with a broader dynamic range and the size of your frame being much larger, allows you to come closer to your subject. In practical terms, this means more details, more bokeh (mounted with a Zeiss lens, the bokeh becomes true whipped cream).
As a matter of fact I am going to need some more rolls in order to get accustomed to this flexibility. I am still completely not confident when turning all those wheels and force myself to let it flow. It is of course much easier with a digital cam, as one simply has to look at the back screen to see if it all turns fine! No back screen here of course…
One must wait a good week for the negatives to return from the lab and god knows how frustrating this can be!
This comes at the cost of a careful maintenance, a lot of care and love for craft. My old negative back actually came with a light leak that ruined most of my first rolls. The light entering and hitting the negative inside the camera from the side of the body creates a typical color veil that does not look Very good at all. I was very lucky to shoot this below photo on which the leak looks totally controlled (I swear it wasn’t!) and adds to the overall photographs mood. Just like a mystical fog… Lucky me.
All in all, unpleasant surprises. Can happen if you aren’t extremely careful. But in the very end, when your first roll ever comes back to you and delivers this very first portrait below, it feels like a virus and you want more, more more more more…
So what’s next? Your portrait maybe? A secret project I can’t tell you about?As mentioned above, this type of photographs is associated with the notion of Family to me. I think it carries a set of values like patience, proximity and care by nature. Can one actually use this and incorporate it in the very artistic practice? No doubt to me… Only through extensive practice tho, try and error. I am working on it. Very hard.