I’ve been meaning to write about a module I did on my photography degree almost a year ago, but just never got around to writing it up. The whole point of the module was to consider studio lighting, the use of medium format cameras, transparency film and team work. I used my Bronica SQA medium format camera. This analogue camera takes 120 mm film and the negatives are approximately 4x the size of a standard 35 mm film camera, so the quality and detail of the image is 4x greater. The Bronica SQA is a Japanese camera and was first manufactured in 1982 – I think they were discontinued around 10 years ago, so now they are only available to purchase second hand. This one takes square photos, 6×6 cms. It’s a sturdy camera, with a modular structure to which various lenses, viewfinders, a handle grip and film back cartridges can be added and removed.
These cameras were often used by wedding and portrait photographers before the invention of digital – including my own wedding. It’s possible to change the ‘back’ or ‘film cartridge’ in order to shoot with more than one film if required, this isn’t possible with 35 mm cameras. For this project I used the standard film back, but also a Polaroid cartridge. I used ‘colour transparency’ film, the kind used for projecting images onto walls. This is developed using the E6 process, rather than the normal C41 process for colour film. The ‘negatives’ actually present as ‘positives’ and have a wonderful colour quality, although the colour on the positives is reversed at this point. It’s an unforgiving film, not much leeway for mistakes. It’s important to obtain the correct exposure when shooting. This is why I also used a Polaroid cartridge, so that I could see what my images looked like immediately, rather than shooting the entire film and then finding that the quality was poor after processing. An expensive back-up maybe, but, in my opinion, worth every penny. Of course Polaroid no longer produce film, but Fuji make a similar kind which we used with 10 prints.
My group decided to do a campaign project highlighting the issue of ‘social isolation’. We were not aiming to produce information on any specific illness or condition, but rather looking at the problems associated with isolation. We were considering how these photos might appear in magazines, on handout leaflets or on posters. We shot the film using 500w Elinchrom studio lights and most of the images were balanced to the natural light rather than shooting directly in a studio. We also used a variety of accessories such as reflectors, gels, and honeycomb grids. Here are some final images – faces have been blurred: