My first cameras as a kid made square photographs. The first was a Kodak Brownie that took 127 film. The second was a cheap Instamatic knockoff that took 126 film cartridges.
Even though cameras for 126 film were hugely popular in the 1960s and 1970s, most cameras make rectangular photographs. The 3×2 aspect ratio is standard for 35mm cameras and DSLRs, while 4×3 is standard for digital point-and-shoots. Remember the 110 film format? It made images in the weird 10×7 ratio!
Since I cut my photographic teeth on the 1×1 ratio, shooting on the square feels like coming home. I’ve moved far past those basic cameras, however. I own two twin-lens reflex (TLR) cameras from the 1960s made by Yashica: the Yashica-D and the Yashica-12. These are well-built cameras with wonderful lenses that make images on medium-format film.
As you can see from the photo of me holding my Yashica-12, a TLR is a large brick. It’s hefty! It’s also sturdy. You could knock a sucka out with one if you swung it at their head. (But don’t do that.)
Up top you see the viewfinder cover flipped up. You peer down into it to frame your image, which renders backwards on the ground glass. It’s disorienting until you get used to it!
I’ve collected 40 of my favorite photographs I made with these two TLRs into a book. I titled it Square Photographs so that, as the British say, “it does what it says on the tin.” Next to each photograph I’ve written a short essay, meditation, or history. Here’s a look inside:
I made two editions of Square Photographs, a Standard Edition and a Deluxe Edition. I did it as an experiment. Let me explain.
When I published my previous photo book, Vinyl Village (info and where to buy here), I used Amazon Kindle Publishing for the first time. I wanted that book’s price to be easy to afford, and Amazon made it possible.
But I heard from a number of readers that they were very disappointed with the book’s image quality. I had chosen Amazon’s entry-level paper and ink, and it led to images of low contrast with blacks that looked dark gray. I thought it worked with the subject matter, but I heard it loud and clear: you expected better.
I still wanted an affordable edition of this book, so once again I turned to Amazon Kindle Publishing. This time I chose Amazon’s best paper and ink — and it turned out very well, with good color saturation, deep blacks, and good contrast. This is the Standard Edition, it’s 8½”x8½”, and it’s $15.99. It’s priced similarly at Amazon sites worldwide.
I published the Deluxe Edition through MagCloud, which specializes in printing top-quality photo books. The paper and ink are both a cut above. The colors are richer and the blacks are blacker. That costs extra, of course. The Deluxe Edition is $24.99 plus shipping. It’s also slightly smaller at 8″x8″, because that’s the square size that MagCloud offered.
Square Photographs. 86 pages, available worldwide on Amazon and MagCloud.