Once or twice a year I look through my old medium format contact sheets and am mesmerized by some of the images. The moment usually passes without my doing anything about it. But once in a great while I pull an old medium format camera out of storage, put a (usually expired) roll of film in it and go out to take some pictures. And then reality steps in.
I dislike almost everything about working with medium format. The cameras are big and heavy. I find them harder to hold steady than my beautiful little 35mm film cameras. It takes an unconscionable volume of chemicals to develop one roll of film. And the only practical way I have of scanning medium format negatives is with a flatbed scanner and I never seem to be able to control the dust when I do that. But oh those images.
Only 10% or so of the negatives in the archive of my father’s work and mine are medium format, but half or more of the prints on display in our house at any time are made from those medium format negatives. When my father or I got the composition, exposure and development right, and I get the prints right, I find myself wondering why I waste my time with 35mm.
Last night I was looking at a contact sheet of 6×6 pictures I took on a long walk with my then fiancé 54 years ago and the whole cycle started again. It’s overcast today, perfect for photographing the very odd roof line of a house being remodeled just around the corner from us. I’m on my way out now and I’m taking a battered old Rolleiflex loaded with HP5 Plus. We’ll see what happens…