Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Graflex’:

Joshua Paul – Capturing the Soul of F1 Racing

Anyone who knows me will confirm I’ve always had a fondness for cars. Given the slightest prompting, I’ll wax poetic about the bygone era when I lived in New York City and parked my Alfa Romeo on the street overnight (with the top down!!) And whenever the opportunity presents itself, I make it a point to go out and appreciate the fine details of classic cars – most of them also of a bygone era.

So I’m delighted to discover and share with you the work of Joshua Paul, who’s recently received attention across the blogosphere for his images which seem to have emerged from [all together, now!] a bygone era. Josh could be considered the driving force behind Lollipop GP, a photography magazine dedicated to the thrill of Formula 1. Have a look at Josh’s Instagram feed, and I’m sure you’ll agree he succeeds at finding the essence of the sport. There’s nothing better, short of actually being there to experience the roar, the heat, the smell, and the dazzle with your own senses.

Part of Josh’s style is his use of a classic camera, the Graflex 4×5 – a chimney-style SLR now over 100 years old. Based on the quality of his other images, it’s clearly a stylistic choice, not a gimmick. I was instantly reminded of one of my longest-known friends, David Burnett, who, if you haven’t seen previous mentions on this blog, you may recognize as “that one guy who used a Speed Graphic to cover the Olympics… and the Vietnam war… and presidential campaigns since JFK’s… and coups d’etat, famines, revolutions, and the various other things you come across during a 50-year career“. David happily makes use of modern equipment – he regularly carried two Canon 5D bodies, in that camera’s heyday, and has made striking images on everything from a Mamiya to a Holga. But he found his muse in the Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4×5, which he often mated to the 1943 Kodak Aero-Ektar, a 178mm f/2.5 lens originally used on World War 2 spy planes.

Now, to be clear – I’m sure that every other photographer in the images above worked very hard to get where they are and to come away from the gig with great images. The days are long, the bags are heavy (especially with those 400mm lenses), and the business side is more competitive than ever. And let’s not even get into how miserable it is to fly, these days…

Nevertheless, in the age of 20 fps motor drives and multi-lens cellphones, there’s just something wonderful about watching Josh and David use their imaginations to push their ancient technologies of choice in new directions. As Ansel Adams famously said, “the single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

As I write this, issue #4 of Lollipop should be shipping soon; issue #3 still shows limited quantities available and can be ordered on Coming in at 228 pages, it looks absolutely beautiful – not just in terms of images, but also graphic design. As for David, two of his books are currently available on Amazon: one, a chronicle of Bob Marley and the other reggae icons he encountered on tour in the late 70s, and the other documenting the fall of the Shah of Iran, the rise of the Ayatollah, and the ensuing hostage crisis.

Louis Mendes: Street Shooting at “Me Priority”

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a photographer who occupies a unique niche in the digital era. Louis Mendes uses a vintage Graflex Speed Graphic, instant film (now Fuji since Polaroid has left the marketplace), and electronic flash (although he’d gladly use flashbulbs if they were still readily available) to take pictures of individuals and families at locations around Manhattan.

Louis Mendes with his Speed Graphic camera

You may have seen him outside B&H Photo, or in Rockefeller Center during the Christmas season… Mr. Mendes gets around, and was even the subject of a feature in The New York Times back in January. It seems there are enough willing customers to keep him busy. Mr. Mendes spoke disparagingly in The Times piece of the digital photo hustlers who work the tourist areas, saying “…They don’t know aperture priority from shutter priority. This, this is me priority. All manual. I set it.”

I love it – ‘me priority.’ I had a Speed Graphic myself, inherited in the late ’60s from an Associated Press assignment editor named Dan Grassi, himself a former AP shooter. That camera has gone to its final reward, but David Burnett, one of my oldest pals, and one of the finest photojournalists of the past few decades (and still working hard) has himself used his 4×5 Speed Graphic (with film) to photograph recent presidential campaigns and the Olympic Games. It’s all about the discipline of getting it right in one (maybe two) carefully composed frame. And that ethic applies just as much today.

I used to think nothing of traveling on big international shoots with many cameras and even more lenses, but came to understand that the real creative challenge is to make great pictures with one camera, one lens. What I just wrote, “make pictures” I learned originally from the AP’s Dan Grassi. Until he taught me just what those two words mean, I always said “take pictures.” There is a difference.