A LF Format Discovery In Italy
Just spent five weeks travelling through Italy with a compact digi and my Speed Graphic, and the wife, enjoying some incredibly generous hospitality along the way. To be truthful the Speed Graphic wasn't to be the main attention for photography over there and I only took 20 sheets with me. Regrettably I only used 14 sheets and on reflection should have taken multiple exposures of the same subject to use all of them up after going to the trouble of taking it over and lugging it around by foot and on train.
For the architecture and landscape enthusiast Italy has an abundance of prime subjects, your only limitation is avoiding the multitudes of tourists clammering around the place. I mostly do still life now but the chance to work outside amongst the scenery and antiquity was irresistable. Firstly and foremost I caught up with a most notable and respected photographer and enjoyed his company and hospitality in Milan, our relaxed time with him was a great pleasure. To witness his work and appreciate his unique skill will be a living memory. Then we headed to Lucca. Here I literally stumbled across a couple of photographers, one using film and another selling his LF gear in the window of his little shop who were both overjoyed to see the SG slung over my shoulder and took me into their studios to share their interest. We somehow worked around the language barrier to converse at length as photogs. The bloke selling his substantial collection of LF gear also had out the back in his studio the portrait camera used by his mother since 1930 that was mounted on a very large very heavy steel stand that looked something used on an old x-ray machine. This unit was complete with a 300mm Heliar lens. Some of his mother's splendid old portrait work hung from the high picture rail on the wall of his shop and prompted me to ask who did them. The number of old but expertly made portraits included political and religious leaders which leads me to think mum was a photographer of some note.
Eventually we made it to Rome were I discovered by chance on a strole close to our hotel the Instituto Centrale per il Catalogue e la Documentazione. Outside a sign indicated an exhibition of Guido Guidi's work. Not that I knew of him but we ventured in uncertain but welcomed enthusiastically by an assistant to view the four rooms of work. Not realising what was ahead after the exhibition we walked into a medium sized room that essentially held a collection of LF and other gear collected by the institute as a reminder of the photography history in Italy. The range of old lenses in glass cabinets and mounted on different sized cameras was mouth watering. I assume this is a permanent display going by the size of the collection and the way it was housed, although I can't be sure of this as I didn't ask. In any case if you are ever in Rome I recommend a visit to the Institution, it is not far from the old part of the city in Trastevere, just across the river in an off the track street. A very small number of lenses I noted are Ross No. 6 Portrait (huge), Hermagis No. 25.416, Voigtlander Braunschweig APO Skopar 45cm f6, ANGne Mon Jamin Darlot. Sr Optic??? 14 Chapon Paris, the rest I didn't get the details of but you may recognise them in the photos when I attach them to my Flickr account, I'll let you know when that happens.
While the holiday was not intended to be a photo equipment expose', to some extent it nearly turned out that way by chance rather than good management. All up it was a memorable experience from the start to the end.