Since I often get asked about the methods I use to produce my work (mainly through customers coming into my gallery), I thought I’d write a few words for those of you out there in cyberland about the equipment and materials I use. It may be of interest to some of you.
For starters, EVERYTHING is shot on film (no damn digital tomfoolery here!), and hand processed by myself. Beginning with camera gear, most work is shot on medium format these days, using Mamiya 7 rangefinder equipment for the ‘normal’ stuff, with a full range of lenses, although I do tend to favour wide-angle optics. I do employ 35mm gear on occasion, anything from rangefinders to SLR, but almost all ancient, Leicas to the Nikon ‘F’ range of equipment, Hasselblad 500CM occasionally, and a Hasselblad X-Pan, also a favourite of mine, which produces stunningly sharp results. All prime lenses too. With the exception of the toy cameras (more of these later!), I always use red filters when shooting, preferring the contrast I achieve in this manner, and virtually everything is shot on Ilford Delta 400, rated at 50 ISO to take into account the red filter.
I tend to prefer rangefinders for their ability to be hand-held at pretty low shutter speeds, without running into camera shake territory, and I can’t be pestered to cart a tripod around with me. (My wife also insists that any shot of mine is taken very near to a road, as walking and carting loads of gear about isn’t my thing either..there might be some truth in that. In fact, I’m not too keen on walking at all!)
However, despite owning and occasionally using quite an armoury of decent, fairly expensive camera gear, in the last few years many of my pics have been taken on an array of toy cameras. In fact, so taken am I with the superb atmosphere that they can produce, I often wonder WHY I have an armory of expensive stuff, when many of my favourite images of recent years have been shot on toys. These include Dianas, (my absolute favourite for its image quality being an original 1960s model, taped up to the gunnels to avoid light leaks, which arenít my thing), Holgas, (for one of which I have a 35mm back, which exposes across the whole width of the film), a Fujipet, the image quality of which is amazing, and a Lubitel. I often only carry around a case with this collection in, leaving the fancy stuff at home. I have also added to this crowd, the recently re-introduced Diana, made by Lomography, and featuring many new innovations over the originals; interchangeable lenses for one, 35mm multi-format backs another, and a pinhole option too. I have all four lenses for this camera, and testing is underway!
I also purchased earlier this year a Speed Graphic with Kodak Aero Ektar, which is a second world war optic designed for use (as you might guess from its name!) aerial reconnaissance work, with an astonishing 7′ focal length but maximum aperture of
f2.5! This has yet to be used in anger, mainly because of opportunity, with the dire weather we’ve had in Britain this summer (2008), but I am very much looking forward to getting it fired up. This combination has gained the name the Burnett combo, as
it is used to great effect by the photojournalist David Burnett. You should check out some of his images too!
When it comes to the darkroom, I use Kodak HC110 as my soup, dilution ‘B’, which I have stuck with for years now. However paper, (all resin-coated, as it is faster and therefore can be sold for a more reasonable price than fibre-based, and gives excellent quality), has been a minor problem since the sad demise of Agfa (RIP), whose Multi-contrast Premium I used almost without exception, for its excellent high contrast and beautiful toning properties. Lately, I have been using Ilford (thanks for keeping going lads!) Multigrade Warmtone RC, either toned or developed in warmtone dev and left ‘as is’, for
B&W rather than thiocarbamide toned, and some Ilford Portfolio, although this also appears to be discontinued.
This covers most of the work I do. You will spot quite a few shots taken with infra-red film, which is another lamented item in the form of Kodak High Speed IR, but again recently discontinued. If anyone has questions they feel I may be able to answer/help with, I would be happy to do so, emailed via the site.