Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

urban large format

Prior to moving to  Victor Harbor and the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in 2015 we lived in a townhouse in Adelaide's CBD  for a decade or more.  It was easy for me to  wander the streets of the CBD with a digital and medium format camera on various poodlewalks.   Slowly, ever so slowly as I got to know the city  I began to  start using a large format camera  (an old  Cambo 5x7 SC3 monorail) to photograph the streets. 

The locations chosen  were within  easy carrying distance from the townhouse as I was carrying the gear. An example is this picture of  Mill St, Adelaide, 2012, which  was just a block away from where I lived in Sturt St. 

The initial results were not good. I was embarrassed, then discouraged.  It was just so different from walking the streets with a hand held medium format camera. I kept asking myself what was I trying to do with using large format,  apart from making an individual photo? I had no idea. The camera had been used for the Bowden Archives project  in the 1980s and it was sitting in a cupboard.  So I decided to use it. 

I knew no one making large format  photographs in Adelaide  with whom I could chat and swap notes about how to do urban photography with  large format cameras.  I was posting on Flickr at the time (I joined in 2008) and I searched there  for people who were engaged in  large format urban photography in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane. However, the large form urban photographers  exploring the CBD  of the capital cities were few and far between.  I was puzzled. How come?

I do recall  seeing the Sydney work of  Geoff Roberts circa 2012 on Flickr. His early work from 2008 was street photography using  various Leicas medium format.   Then around 2011 in Brisbane  he started using a 5x4 monorail  to supplement his street photography and he made prints in his darkroom. I was so impressed with the urban large format pictures, especially those in Sydney.    He had modern gear (a 4x5  Arca Swiss F-Line Metric), his images had  great contrast and tonality,  he   included people in the urban scenes,  and he had travelled to Paris and New York. 

After a couple of exhibitions  Roberts disappeared from Flickr not long  after returning from his trip to the  US around 2015. He uploaded  some of his medium  format US images.  His website is no longer active. He was gone from active urban large format photography.   I just keep returning to look at Robert's Sydney images.  

His Sydney work put my initial efforts  to shame. I was a novice I was  struggling to scan my 5x7 negatives and I was  realizing that my old  Cambo 5x7 SC3 monorail had  its limitations  for photographing  the CBD,  given its bellow sag  tendency when photographing  high buildings.  But I couldn't afford to upgrade  to a more precise and sophisticated camera, such as a Sinar P2.  

All I could do was struggled on.  But for what purpose?