My recent trip to New York was the culmination of a long-held desire to visit what is in my opinion one of THE most iconic places on the planet. For one thing, I think it has some of the greatest looking buildings on Earth, the beautiful Chrysler building being the most amazing structure, and the Flat Iron too, both being a gift for the photographer. We stayed on Lexington Avenue, in an hotel which is rather small by New York standards, being only sixteen floors high, but with the advantages of being roughly mid-way between the Chrysler and the Empire State buildings, both viewable from the rooftop bar. The staggeringly high drinks prices precluded me from visiting this too often however, but I did manage a few shots, one or two at night when there was very low cloud over the city, resulting in very atmospheric views.
I took a range of equipment with me on this trip; not having been before I wasnít really sure which gear I would be likely to use most, but one of the obvious pieces of kit to take there was my Hasselblad X-Pan, used of course vertically in panoramic mode! I only took with me the standard 45mm lens, as since I also had my Mamiya 7 with 43mm and 65mm lenses, a Yashica 124G TLR and an array of ‘toy’ cameras, I didn’t need any more weight!
The toy camera kit comprised an original 1960s Diana and two Holgas, one of which has a 35mm conversion (the latter bought off ebay from Hong Kong for the princely sum of 99p plus shipping!), which allows shooting across the full height of the film by about 60mm, the width of a standard 6x6cm neg. Although the kit includes rather more cameras than this, (it’s become something of an obsession, since I discovered quite a few years ago what great atmosphere and image qualities these cameras can give), it was a matter of space, and I also think that having TOO many cameras with you can be detrimental. Also, having found my bearings by travelling around on the open top buses for the first day, I walked almost everywhere, so weight definitely was an issue. (New York is approximately ten miles long!).
Film was exclusively Ilford Delta 400, used in the Mamiya and the Yashica with my usual red filters, and so effectively rated at 50 ISO to take account of the filter factor, but no filters used with the toy cameras.
Film was burned in all cameras I took, and in order of preference, I liked the images produced with the Diana most and the X-Pan ones next. As I have said, I love the atmosphere these cameras impart to an image and am particularly happy with the two images which are made up of two consecutive negs, the first being Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge (at least it was worth the walk across the bridge to the Brooklyn side in rather high temperatures! – I don’t do heat very well!), the second being The Manhattan Bridge, which was taken from underneath the high level road along the river.
Another unique characteristic of New York streets seems to me to be the high level street signs and overhanging traffic lights. I find these visually very striking, and incorporated them into many of my images, rendering the architecture as a backdrop to them. Again, although I shot these on both Mamiya and Yashica in addition to the Diana, I preferred those pictures made with the latter. Maybe I should just take the toy camera outfit next time and save myself the exertion!
I hope you like the results. I am in the process of preparing a book of my work taken with the toy cameras, which should be available
in the not too distant future.