Thursday, January 10, 2008
8 x 10
i'm interested in both the aesthetics of 8 x 10 view cameras and the dynamics of shooting portraits with them... after all, large format cameras still seem to be regarded by many as the ultimate tools for fine art photography.
since photographer Alec Soth is the guy both most likely to be described by the sentence "the photographer who takes color portraits with an 8 x 10 camera" and also the guy most likely to not want to be described that way (see his blog post on "the sentence")... i can't help but single him out. (the photo above is "Florence" from his latest project, Magnum's 2007 "Fashion Magazine").
in this video on the YouTube, Soth says of the dynamics of confronting people from beneath the cloth of the view camera: "they're portraits, but there is a distance there. to me it's often a picture of the space between us, in a way"
Soth also posits that the 8 x 10's ground glass itself creates a beautiful, jewel-like image so powerful to the photographer that actually taking the picture is secondary. the resulting photo is just a document of a larger event that takes place, "which really the viewer doesn't experience...they experience the idea of that." i really like the idea that the viewer only experiences the idea of the photograph. i wish Roland Barthes were still around to noodle on the topic.
to sum up the experience, he says "It's not this 'decisive moment'...it's a slowed-down, very purposeful encounter."
i've never used a view camera. but he just makes it sound so romantical...like a tool of seduction.
or, as the fine art world's Nerve profile would remind us: "large prints are sexy... large negatives are sexier."
p.s. in another interview, Soth says that he doesn't collect photography, but he has bought one print, by E.J. Bellocq. (early 20th century photographer who left behind a hidden cache of sexy and awesome portraits of prostitutes from Storyville, New Orleans...taken with an 8 x 10 camera.) i rest my case.