The seeds of my large format affair were planted many years ago when I selected a Hasselblad over the latest Cannikon digi-thing. I was so proud of that camera and paraded it around whenever possible. The fact that I didn’t really know how to use it meant nothing–that’s what books were for. Sadly, I must admit that I liked the attention that camera garnered. But I didn’t stay content for long.
As often happens, one thing led to another and before long I had a 4×5 monorail camera. As its owner, I was confronted by my own ignorance of so many things photographical as I struggled to take a picture. I didn’t even know what focal length really meant or I would have at least understood the general vicinity of the standards relative to each other. I floundered around in the privacy of my home, not wishing to make a public display of my ineptitude. I read a lot, ruined a lot of film, and actually made some decent pictures.
Just as I was feeling satisfied with 4×5, a guy on flickr posted a picture of his 8×10 camera. Godammit, I was smitten. I eventually became the owner of a beautiful Arca Swiss that folds up tight and travels lightish. At the suggestion of my friend Andy Martin, I started night photography with the large camera. Oh how exciting! How scary and risky! My camera and I began sharing romantic evenings in remote, dark spots, chatting about the stars and development time, films and reciprocity failure, lenses and hyperfocal distance. Ah yes, we were quite the pair.
Success bred boldness and soon I was no longer content to confine my large format affair to the dark or the studio and I ventured out into public with my beloved. I discovered that passion had made me blind to the bias of others. We became objects of curiosity at best and ridicule at worst. As a couple, my camera and I are not really accepted. People have rarely seen her like in the flesh, though they have often heard of her kin or seen picutures on tv or in books. There are a few folks who want to show how worldly they are and tell me that someone they knew had such a camera, and how happy they are to see they are still around. Others try to convert me, to show me my sin, offer me the light. The worst treat us with scorn or laugh, or show me with pride their trophy wife cameras–young and slim and silent. They have no respect for my regal, experienced, hugely versatile lady, and do not want to hear of her virtues. I am angered and saddened and offended.
I can only say this: you don’t choose what camera you love. One day she walks into your life and you are her slave. So keep your pontificating to yourself because I’m gonna go all Petzval on the next person who passes judgment on my gal.