It’s been two years since I shot my large format camera. There comes a point where instead of saying “I shoot Large Format”, one has to start saying “I used to shoot large format”, that point has come and gone. It’s mostly due to the loss of my darkroom, and the arrival of the intern, and whilst it is something I’ve been meaning to do something about, I haven’t.
Or a least that was the case until a few weeks ago. Having spent a day roaming Roman streets with a Leica and knocking out about seventy frames, the next was spent in Rome, shooting only five.
I was in the expert company of an awesome photographer by the name of Giulio Speranza. I came across his large format landscape work on social media last year and then caught wind of his Lf photography training courses, I dropped him a note to say that I normally find myself in Rome at some point in the summer, and that we should hook up.
As a Roman he is duty bound to leave the city for much of August but as luck would have it, there was one day upon which we could be there simultaneously. We talked via messenger in the run up to meeting. I wanted to shoot the Colosseo Quadrato, because I love it, and asked if we could head over to the EUR District in south western Rome.
One advantage of shooting in EUR in the summer is that it is super quiet, and has a number of amazing rationalist or neoclassical buildings. Making it both interesting and easier to negotiate with a Large Format Camera than in the more touristy chunks of the old centre.
On the way out Giulio explained that he uses EUR as a teaching space often, the combination of the architecture and the wide boulevards makes it a perfect place to experiment with perspective correction and urban landscape photography.
We were shooting his Linhof Technika IV which is a folding view camera much like my Tach, but different enough to keep things interesting. Being able to borrow one of his cameras was a godsend. I didn’t have to bring mine over from England, or my good tripod, or sheet film, or double dark-slides, or a changing tent, or a box to put exposed film, or a loupe and blanket, and so on. (I also didn’t have to x-ray my negatives both pre- and post-exposure as he was kind enough to develop, scan, and fed-ex my negs to me after the event).
It was really very hot, and I’m out of practice. I say that because the shots aren’t perfect, but with Giulio’s guidance they’re as good as they are. One frame died because I pulled wrong dark slide while taking a subsequent photo, the others are solid excercises in technique but are a bit meaningless.
The important thing is that the workshop has reminded me how much I like LF photography. I’d forgotten how slow and methodical it is, from subject selection through to pressing the plunger. Everything slows down as you work though each part of the process, taking time to engage with your environment, building your image on the focusing screen stage by stage. I’m convinced that I need to get back into shooting 4x5 film, so that I can try to push beyond technical exercises and start to make big images with feeling. In the meantime at least I can say that I shoot large format film without feeling dishonest.
I had a great time, and if it would float your boat, and you get the chance I would heartily recommend you take one of his courses. You can see a mix of his lovely work at www.giuliosperanza.com, and you can follow him here. Here are some tweaked scans of my efforts from the day.