Large Format Photography

In November I found myself back at Illuminate for an introduction to Large Format Photography. Having shot medium format for several years, I was always curious to scratch that itch with large format, and as soon as I saw this introduction, it seemed the perfect opportunity to sign up.

The introduction was hosted by Amedeo Castellani. Amedeo has a vast amount of experience under his belt, attending art school in Rome and then working at Cinecitta’ film studios, and then moving back to London to set himself up as a photographer and briefly working in the competitive world of photojournalism. Amedeo has exhibited and has had work published both in the UK and afar. His main interests are portraiture and street photography, of which he presented some of his recent work based around local artists and artisans. 

After a good opening chat and a cup of coffee, we then began our introduction. This covered:

  • Origins
  • Loading film
  • Camera movements
  • Taking photographs 
  • Developing the film
  • Printing
  • Hybrid workflow

 

I had never used a large format camera before, so the whole concept was new. Seeing such a stripped-back setup, you realise the simplicity of photography. This was something I’d also mentioned previously in my post on pinhole photography. Some of the cameras that Amedeo had with him went back a fair way and you could get a sense of the craftsmanship that went into them. One can’t help but imagine the many stories that they tell, and the many memories that have been captured with them.

When it comes to the nitty gritty and using them, you soon realise that it takes time when it comes to loading the film and preparing your shot, and there is certainly a process and order of things. It’s not as difficult as one might think, but it’s something you want to take your time with. As a group, we all got the opportunity to take each other’s portraits in the studio (shown below). We then went into the darkroom to develop the negatives and print each of the images. This was something I’d already familiarised myself with previously when I first entered the darkroom at Illuminate. I will stress again that seeing your image just appear in the developing tray is just magical. I don’t think it’s something you could ever get bored of.

One of the points towards the end was hybrid workflow. I wasn’t sure what this was at first, then later realised that it was how I work currently with film photography, where the negatives are developed and scanned digitally, and then printed. For me, this works because I don’t have a darkroom on hand at home. Some may argue that this kind of cheats the process of developing and printing from point of taking your shot. 

I don’t disagree, but for me, it’s a shortcut and a convenience. I’ve printed some of my film scans and have loved the results. To me, they still convey that feeling you get from film photography.

That being said, I’ll look to print some occasional black and white work at Illuminate. Printing is important to your work, and regardless of how good it may look on your screen, that is amplified further when you are holding the print in hand.

Will I look to shoot large format? I will never say never. However, I’m not sure it’s right for where I am now in terms of my journey. I love working with medium format and whilst this is the next step, I’m not sure I really “need” to be going down that road just yet. Some of this comes down to the overall cost of it all, and other parts come down to time, not to mention the bulk of it all. There is certainly a look to large format, and a few of the photographers on Instagram that I follow, create some dreamy and ethereal work using 5×4 cameras. However, I’m not sure it gives me a huge amount over 6×6 and 6×7 in how and what I print. 

The workshop provided a good insight into my understanding and there were several things that I took away that added value to my current photography. Illuminate has offered several creative workshops since opening and all offer something a little different, whether it’s photography, collage, painting and so on. If you are local to Suffolk, then I highly recommend checking out the space and seeing what they have on offer.

A big thank you to Amedeo for the day and also Mikaela at Illuminate for hosting the event (and the copious cups of coffee!).

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