Large format photography takes a level of dedication that can be almost masochistic at times. If your camera weighed dozens of pounds, would you take it with you everyday? I know I would complain if had to carry the giant wooden behemoths that are large format cameras. In the short film, Through the Ground Glass, photographer Joseph Allen Freeman does just that; he shares his experiences with being a large format photographer, whilst spanning the mountains of Washington.
In the film, Freeman speaks candidly about the the trials and tribulations of getting the shot. “You walk that line about being totally confidant and totally insecure at the same time.” He explains that all that pain and difficulty is what draws him in; his exhaustion brings clarity to his mind to help him focus on the shot. To help imagine his pain, the equivalent to carrying around a set-up like Freeman’s is like lugging around thirteen 5D Mark IIIs with a Canon 24-105mm f4 attached.
Freeman explains the experience looking though the ground glass, “I move the camera around, paying attention to shapes and forms, until it feels right. The line is like a melody and a texture is like tone and music… so once it’s tuned then that’s how you know that you’re ready to make an exposure.” Freeman continues in to the beauty of contact printing, how the print can out resolve the human eye as it were almost a slice of life. He uses a combination of selenium toner and tea (yes, the beverage) to produce darker tones and bring warmth to the images.
Large format photography is becoming a lost art that only a handful of people still practice, but it is not dead yet. It is astonishingly cheap to get into large format photography costing as little as $150. At that price point, you have a level of detail that digital can’t touch (not without spending a small fortune). Hopefully, the art form of the masters will still live on in people like Freeman. Check out the result of his labor on his website.
[VIA PetaPixel / Images Screen Captures]