Large Format Aesthetics

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by aatonpanavision, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. aatonpanavision

    aatonpanavision Member

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    I'm mainly a people/advertising style photographer, similar in vein to this kind of stuff:
    http://img216.imageshack.us/img216/7206/carrie1231ge.jpg

    however this semester at my college I have to take an LF class and use an 8x10 camera.

    My concern is that 8x10, suits a much different style and aesthetic than I'm used to. And thinking about the ultra sharp clarity of LF it seems you'd have to have a different approach to fashion photography, like it'd be more about the clarity and focus of the image rather than the shapes.
    anyways does anybody have experience or suggestions about fashion shooting on 8x10 - notable photographers? BTW I don't like Dave Lachapelle or Gregory Crewdson style -- so just a heads up.
    thanks
     
  2. rcoda

    rcoda Member

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    Avedon.
     
  3. Ulrich Drolshagen

    Ulrich Drolshagen Subscriber

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    You may have look at the recent book of Jim Rakete, "1/8 sec". He's a German photographer, which made the portraits for this book with an 8x10 camera.
    http://www.art-magazin.de/kunst/3393.html
    The text is in German but you may be more interested in the pictures anyway.

    Ulrich

    PS the pictures are of German celebrities mostly
     
  4. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Yep! First one that came to my mind.

    That may be the point. Academic settings often make artists do something they are not used to, or that they do not want to do. :wink:
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You can control the shape of objects in the frame better with a view camera than with a fixed camera, and you can control the plane of focus to make things blurred or sharp, as you choose. A view camera isn't as quick to work with as an SLR, but it gives you options you wouldn't otherwise have. You might also look at the kinds of things people are doing in LF with old and historic lenses for examples of alternatives to the slick look (try a search on "petzval" and "verito" to get started).
     
  6. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The PROCESS of photography is radically different with 8x10
    than with smaller cameras. It really isn't about sharpness,
    or about film clarity. If anything, it IS about YOUR clarity.

    If anything, 4x5 is about sharpness. 8x10 is all about sweat.

    The pure physicality of using an 8x10
    is what might charge the images you make with a big camera with an emotional intensity
    that is not present with 120. If you have to sweat to make a picture, you are engaged in a radically different way than
    if you just sit back and be intellectual. Of course, you might just choose to impose your 'look' on a big camera,
    and gain nothing from the experience. 8x10 defies irony.

    The only hint is that Edw. Weston worked everyday to be able to set up the rig quickly,
    shoot, and break it all down and move on. Joel Meyerowitz is really fast when he works with 8x10.
    The hard work, the effort, clarifies your vision.

    Ever watch a glassblower work ? Same EXACT thing. Have fun. Be willing to transform yourself.
     
  7. aatonpanavision

    aatonpanavision Member

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    thanks for the thoughts, yeah I don't want to "fight" the camera or impose my look onto something that isn't 35mm like. I learned not to do that when I had a mamiya rb67. I'm super excited to find out where this will take me.
     
  8. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    "The hard work, the effort, clarifies your vision."

    and practice until it is second nature where all the options are in the fore front of your mind and easily retrieved. I can't speak to 8x10, but this is pretty much how things work for me.

    Along with Don, David's points seem right on to me.
    LF (the bigger the more true) has some really 'easy' to access abilities -- focus control, dof control, perspective/object shape control and greater ability to render tones.
     
  9. aluncrockford

    aluncrockford Member

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    You could start with Nick Knight take a look at Irvin Penn and then glance at Richard Avendon ,Norman Parkinson and Horst in fact most major commercial ,advertising photographers have shot 10/8 as a matter of course ,you might also find that using 10/8 will help develope your ideas and give you an edge over your fellow photographers , I would also suggest you view the project as a positive way to improve your work and not as a negative pain designed to hinder your vision
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The style & aesthetic have nothing to do with format.

    What changes is approach, and methodology, a slightly more modern example is david Bailey, he's worked across the formats from 35mm to Large format.

    I guess the other thing that changes is chance versus tight direction, with 35mm and even roll film formats you can shoot a lot of images and hope you get a few good images, but with LF it's about supreme control. That needs a lot of confidence and mastery of technique.

    Ian
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    What Ian said.

    If you can't see why you would use it after taking the class, by all means don't use it! It is great for some things and some shooters, and horrible for others. Don't waste your effort using something "just because", and don't let anyone tell you you've gotta do this or do that. There are no bragging rights based on format. Only your final product. I have so much crap that I unnecessarily shot on large format when I was first learning it. I went through a period where I shot large format "just because" I thought it was fun, and the sharpness just killed me coming straight in as a beginning student with just six weeks of photography experience on 35. I'd take a Speed Graphic out as an everyday walk around camera "just because" I loved the process of it so darned much. I learned a lot about photography, and it improved my shooting across the board, but I also missed a bunch of stuff I would have got with roll film, and I really don't have a ton of images that I love to death from it all (and the ones that I do love would have been 90% as good on medium format). I *did* have a sizable hole in my wallet at that time, however, and no time for ANYTHING else! Now I have negs that are overkill in terms of technical quality, I missed shooting some things that I would have loved to have instead, and I have a bunch of film that won't fit in my current enlarger.

    If I want to devote a lot of time to actually *crafting* a photograph, and I don't need to shoot a whole ton, I like large format because of the control, versatility, and quality.

    Avedon shot 6x6 as well...a LOT. My favorite of his work was done with a TLR.
     
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  12. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    Check out Arnold Newman. He also shot with many different formats.

    gene
     
  13. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Dear One. You missed the line about he "has" to do it. College is like that. There are good sides and bad sides to this sort of thing. It makes you expand your vision, it's a real PITB if you are not into it at all. Just ask me about studio shooting. I find noothing more boring in the entire world than placing lamps and getting perspective on a kaluha bottle correct. I did need to do it to get out of school though. You suck it in and do the work.

    as to the OP, practice, practice, practice. See how you can expand your smaller format work vision into an 8x10 paradigm. Avadon is a good place to start, even if that isn't my cuppa tea.

    tim in san jose
     
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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Of course he has to use the camera. What I am suggesting is to find what suits the format, rather then attempting to squeeze his current "work" into it, which can lead to using it unnecessarily, hence expense, frustration, etc. Then, "after the class", as I preempted everything I said with, he knows when to use it and when not, and if it works for him with what he likes to do now. In other words, don't let no stinkin' required class change you "just because" of what people in it say.

    The aesthetic part of my answer was simply to refer the OP to Ian Grant's post; especially his first sentence. I could not add anything much to that! I was just sort of grumbling on the fine art world's large format arrogance that I am constantly running into in classes.

    Maybe the OP can do a nice still life of a turd in a punch bowl and turn that in.
     
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  16. John Jarosz

    John Jarosz Member

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    The 8x10 will force you to visualize.

    After you make a few exposures just to "see what will develop", you will realize you need to know what the photograph will look like before you take the picture. After you learn to visualize, you will still throw negatives away for all the same reasons you do now, you'll just throw away fewer because you will learn not to take the "bad" ones.

    John
     
  17. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Hi,
    Perhaps you will allow me to turn the question around? What quality of the image you provide as an illustration would prevent it being taken by a LF camera? The model is static, the camera is static and it looks to me like a strobe was used. How would swapping out the D(whatever) for a D(eardorff) make the image impossible to realize as it is presented? The lack of tonal separation and detail in the shadows and highlights could easily be accomplished in "post processing"

    Remember also that there was a time when LF was the quality standard for high tone publications (a la Vogue) and looking at photo illustrations of couture clothing from the 30's/40's is likely to turn up many example of LF used for fashion.

    However, perhaps I can suggest that you look outside of the immediate field which holds your interest. Two photographers who I think use LF in a way that transcends the generic "LF aesthetic" are Nicholas Nixon and Sally Mann. Both make beautiful photographs of people in which the nature of the camera (and its presence in the immediate space of the photograph) never seems to limit or condition the image. Here are some images for Nixon's best know body of work, and here are some more diverse examples. Here is a link to some info about Sally Mann. Be aware that some consider her controversial (nudity+children), a caveat that brings to mind Jock Sturges. Putting aside any controversy about his work his work, he is a good example of someone who was hired to do commercial campaigns based on a signature style predicated on the use of LF.

    Celac
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    also check out some of frank petronio's portraits
    a lot of it is 4x5, but he was using a 8x10 camera as well ...
     
  19. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Have a look at the photobiographic book on Steichen, "Lives in Photography." It might give some fresh ideas.

    You might also take the time to research why LF was the choice for this type of photography. I will venture to say that it was not because of greater clarity, and had more to do with overall tonality and ease of duping and touchups. You'll have to find out for yourself what the advantages and disadvantages are today.
     
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  20. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I find it easier to visualize with a large format camera. Even if it is generally slower, if you learn to anticipate the moment you are looking for.. you can get very close if not spot on. It's actually very rewarding to be able to adapt and 'pull through', using something which initially isn't as user-friendly. At least that's my opinion, i'm horrible at taking pictures of people.
     
  21. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Approach, and methodology can influence, dictate or inform aesthetic choices. Just as format size and proportion can and influence dictate or inform aesthetic choices.

    learn about the format and camera a bit to see what strikes a cord with you and go from there. I wouldn't be too keen to look what others are doing or have done in an attempt to find some 'style' you could apply.

    But that is just how I see things.
     
  22. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    I just came on this thread; delighted to see the mention of Nixon. I saw a show of his at MOMA some years back where he photographed sequences of images of AIDS victims as their condition progressively worsened. The whole thing was done with the 8x10, but the fluidity was such that it could have been 35mm - with all the qualities that the 8x10 can bring forth when used in a masterly way.

    It was a stunning show. I will never forget it.
     
  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    the beautiful thing about shooting 8x10 is that it can be
    an over produced broadway play that no one wants to see.
    elaborate set-up, metering lighting, costumes ( fashion ) ..
    but in the end it is just one of those things were you know have
    your subject just like you want them, they are looking blankly at you
    as you fool around with the camera for 20minutes to make sure you have the lens
    set up right, and the camera stopped down, tilted, swung shifted &C just right ..
    then you stand aside, pull the dark slide
    and spend 15 minutes getting the right expression out of your model, and they moved from the big
    X you put on the floor with masking tape so they are out of focus.
    you shoot another few film holders, process the film
    and realize the you were so hell-bent on the technical aspects of everyitng
    that they were all mistakes ( even scratched up when you developed them in the tray )
    and they are the so much better than you had expected, you really like
    what is going on. the image isn't about the model and her fashion but about
    something else -- the texture, the moment and everything else you were't thinking about.

    good luck!
    john
     
  24. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    I never personally experienced a course with the great Ralph Hattersley, but a friend who did mentioned that one of his assignments was snot on a doorknob and it had to be just gorgeous. Another artist that comes to mind here is Frederick Sommer.
     
  25. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    one,
    Of course we are, as usual, about 90 degrees out of phase. I like your idea of the turd. When I worked at a college darkroom after my stint at NESOP (it was a work study program while I got my engineering degree) I often told students the same thing. Do the damned work the prof requires, and don't give a crap about whether the prof would like it or not. It's your work. Make it technically perfect and artistically yours.

    as far as lf arrogance... life is.

    tim in san jose
     
  26. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Sometimes the format is driven by other considerations than Ansel Adam cloning. I work in most LF's but principally 8X10 and the reasons are for lack of a better word, brute force. Let me explain. I find the difference in tonality and smoothness noticable even between 4X5 and 8X10. And I also need cameras large enough to hold up the f4 portrait lenses that achieve the softness, smoothness, and tonality that I am after. The math is easy. A 16Inch f4 lens is 4 inches of glass and 12 pounds of brass. But the effect on a large sheet of film contact printed is still set apart from anything a computer can achieve. On my web pages there are some feeble attempts to illustrate what I'm talking about. I doubt Adams, Weston, or Mortensen would have paid a minutes attention to what I'm doing in 8X10.