12.05.2011

A pleasant afternoon spent in the studio with black and white film. And an actor.

I was remarking to Belinda about how the change over to digital had presaged my addiction to the wild merry-go-round of camera buying and how it was well nigh impossible to choose "just the right camera" to use in making the images I really want to make when she laughed, derisively, and said,  "The camera indecision has been going on since the day I met you.  You can hardly blame digital."  And I was prepared to defend myself because that's what guys do when they get called on their bullshit.  But I took a few moments to reflect.....
These studio images of Rene Zellweger reminded me of my dalliance in the small field of medium format cameras.  Convenient memory wants me to believe that I only dabbled in prestigious German and Swedish brands but actual filmic proof demands that I recognize that I also sampled most of the Japanese fare as well.  These images were done back in the early 1990's with the first Pentax 645 camera and whatever lens I was enthralled with at the time.  I remember liking the very hip sound of the motor and shooting at least twice as much film as I normally would have.  The lighting camera from a studio, electronic flash with a 60 inch Balcar Zebra Umbrella, covered with their unique (and thick) diffusion attachment.  These were the days when I eschewed fill light altogether so the one light is it.

I came to the Pentax 645 from the Pentax 67.  That camera was a beast and the film had a wonderful look BUT unless you were shooting in the studio that gigantic mirror took its toll interms of vibration and very slow flash sync.  It sync'd at 1/30th of a second and the mirror slap was agressive enough to create secondary image blurs even when mounted on a hernia inducing tripod.  The practice of the day was to only buy the model with the mirror lock-up and to use it on every shot.  Even when doing flash. You got your ten images and then you loaded again.  You can see why I was lured into the 645 system with its preloadable inserts and 15 images on a roll.  You could shot forever.  At one point I even own a second 645 with a fiber optic enabled Polaroid back to shoot tests with.  But the 1/60th of a second sync speed stunted my affections for that system as well.....

It was always fun to shoot with Rene.  She would show up and we'd shoot whatever one of us had in mind.  One day we'd go out and shoot cross processed negative film down by the train tracks and other days she'd float down the steep hill on Tenth St. towards Congress Ave. in a giant platform heels, a tiny black dress, a leopard print scarf and Bridgette Bardot sunglasses while balancing a coffee cup and saucer in her hands...(we were making an ART video about coffee entitled, "Coffee.  Is it a gift from God or a took of Satan?" And we were using the very first Canon L1 high eight system in Austin.  Very bleeding edge.)  But the amazing thing to me, when I look back on our shoots is that fact that we rarely used the same camera twice.  There are negatives from both of the Pentax systems and from Leica M's, Nikons, Contaxes and Leica R's but we never did nail in a "favorite" camera.  

Which brings me back to Belinda's observation.  I've always enjoyed mixing it up.  In fact, I'm toying with the idea of opening a store for people like me.  We'd have a couple of all the coolest cameras and we'd charge a subscription rate.  Every day you could come in and trade out and use a different camera.  I haven't done my market research and it could very well be that I'm more or less unique in my indifference to routine.  Especially inventory induced routine.  But I don't think so.

None of my subjects have particularly cared which camera or lens or film I used.  They just wanted to enjoy the process and like the end results.  My only regret in my shoots with Rene and others at that time in my career is that I wasn't shooting with the square yet.  That would have made things a little more perfect.  As it is the work is still fun.  

It's cold and windy and wet today.  A nice day to stay inside and scan.  A nice day to blog.  I hope everyone is having a nice start to the week.

12 comments:

Martin G said...

When you open that store put it next to a nice coffee shop if you can. You'll have plenty of business. ;)

Frank Grygier said...

"FantasyCams".."Leica for a Day".."Cappuccino & Cameras". As visions of sugar plums dance in my head.

Scott said...

Noooo, not next to a coffee shop, IN a coffee shop.

Include a mini-studio in the back, with seamless and simple lights.

And sell photo books on the side. Or rent them, like a library.

And...

Never mind. I'm a little over-caffeinated myself at the moment.

Nice pictures, though.

Michael Ferron said...

I think more photos of Rene are in order to show us your progression through various flavors of photo equipment.

Herrgard said...

Don't you lose that feeling of knowing exactly were everything on the camera sits when you change around? I get confused if use more than one camera in a short time.

And I can't decide if I like the second or the last image most.

Cheers.

Dave Jenkins said...

I've been in love with Rene ever since I saw her in "Jerry Maguire."

kirk tuck said...

Herrgard, In all those decades of film shooting there were generally only a handful of the same controls and usually in the same places. Shutter button, focus ring, shutter speed dial and aperture ring. That's only four things per camera. Not like now where you have to decide every step of the process in advance.

kirk tuck said...

Coffee shop, art gallery, portrait studio, daily camera exchange and international investment banking all in one location. Bring me your Greek bonds and I'll give you a free (small) cappuccino...

Wil said...

"...only a handful of the same controls and usually in the same places..."

This is a good place for current market researchers to start. I've actually turned down buying new equipment because of the lack of standardization.

It's one thing to introduce new controls and extra buttons -- we'll deal with that -- but what I don't understand is the constant need to move the normal controls all over the camera.

David A. said...

I happen to be one of those that likes to use one (perhaps two, for special needs) cameras. I just like the idea of using one tool and your imagination. It takes the excuse out of the equation.

Just as there are countless photographers of the past (and present) who used every kind of tool imaginable to create their art, there have also been plenty that used only one. I know that I am probably the billionth person to mention HCB in that regard, but he was one example. Some like his work and others may not, but that's the way it is. But, it is not necessarily the famous photographers that ignite my imagination and make me want to succeed in my quest, it is the ones that we come across almost by accident. Some years back, there was an article in the British Black And White Photography magazine about a man who spent his entire life in poverty; as I recall, he had lost the use of one of his eyes at some point in his life, as well. He had very little money, but he spent his whole life photographing the area where he lived. He didn't get to choose his cameras -- they were often given to him. He scrounged to get film, or had it given to him, as well. Yet, I enjoyed looking at his photographs. He did more as a photographer than I ever will, especially if I spend my time testing and debating about camera gear. Then, there was Milton Rogovin, who made wonderful portraits that spanned decades, using a Rolleiflex.

There is plenty of inspiration out there for both the camera addict and the one gun camp. But, I do have a preference for those who can do amazing things using one tool.

huwmorgan said...

Kirk, you are such a nerd (and so are we :-)). Pick any other group of people at random and they'd all want to know everything about Rene - what is she like, what did you talk about, how did you meet her? But no, the discussion is all about cameras and so are the comments. Too funny!

kirk tuck said...

Huwmorgan. ( :-) ) I too may be a nerd but at least I created the opportunity to spend many days in the studio with Rene.... If anyone had asked I would have told them. She was/is one of the sweetest and least pretentious people I have ever met and, when we worked together, she was in great shape. Remind me to tell you the story I told when a Brittish gossip mag called looking for trash to spew around the time she did the part of "Bridget Jones" for the movie, "The Diary of Bridget Jones." If it doesn't bring a tear to your eye then I may be a poor story teller and you may have a hard heart........