When I was first starting out in my design career, one of my mentors in San Francisco advised me to always have a creative outlet outside of your chosen craft that you’re not getting paid for. The reason for this is threefold: First, you can dump your unbridled creativity into a project that moves at a pace that you set. Second, there is no client other than yourself…you make the decisions and decide where the project goes. And lastly, when you get home you’re not too burnt out from doing the same thing all day to pick it up.
Photography filled that need for me for a long time. But as my skills sharpened, people began offering me money to photograph things for them, so it quickly became job. Not to say that I don’t enjoy it, because I truly do, but it was no longer something just for me.
In a search for a new way to get my creativity out, I’d found my grandfathers old twin lens reflex camera that he’d purchased during his three year tour in New Guinea in World War 2. I was immediately smitten. Sure, it was still photography, but trust that this is no commercial camera. At any rate, I’d put a roll of 120 medium format film in it, and low and behold, it still worked! Now there is a lot to be said for the advances in digital cameras, but nothing comes close to the soul that lies within Fuji 120mm film. After so many years of abuse in the jungle, and being passed around to various family members through the years, it blew my mind that there were no light leaks or significant lens damage.
The best part is that it is incredibly hard to shoot. The image in the viewfinder is upside down and foggy, its hard to see, hard to focus, you need to use a light meter and all of the markings are in German. Why is that a good thing you might ask? Because it makes you think. It makes you take time to frame up shots, double and triple check focus, it forces you to be creative and BE a photographer. There are only 12 frames on a roll of film in an age when the high end DSLRS are shooting 12 frames per second. So you want to make them count. The wait can be excruciating, but when that majestic white envelope arrives with your negatives and prints, you can’t help but tear it open to see what you got. It’s literally like Christmas morning for me. My best find to date was this accidental double exposure of a hayfield in Rutland Massachusetts, and the amazing 60’s era sign that still hangs above Brite Cleaners in Worcester. Great finds like this are eliminated when cameras became more and more automated and perfect.
So while I’m not going to set any land speed records with this rig, or convince any of my clients that it’s worth waiting a week-and-a-half while the film is being developed somewhere in the mid west, it does a more than adequate job of keeping me honest as a photographer. It forces me back to the roots of photography and it makes sure that I never forget the basics. Below are just a few of the images I’ve shot over the course of the last 10 years at various locations throughout the Northeast.