Film Photography

My new book, Square Photographs, is available!

My new book, Square Photographs, is available!
Get the Standard Edition (left) now on Amazon
Get the Deluxe Edition (right) now on MagCloud

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!

Me and Yashica-12

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.

My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!

The Standard Edition is $15.99 at Amazon.com. Get yours here.

The Deluxe Edition, on premium paper and ink, is $24.99 at MagCloud.com. Get yours here.

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Photography

Four new photo books from three photographers

I’m a sucker for photo books. If you make one, I’ll probably buy it.

Three photographers I follow published photo books this summer. The first is Ed Worthington, who goes by The 6 Million P Man online. Check out his site here.

His books usually show Italy through his Yashica-D TLR on color negative films like Kodak Ektar. But thanks to COVID-19 he’s stayed close to home for his new book, It’s Allright Around Here, Isn’t It?

Home is Cardiff, Wales, UK. This is one man’s view of his hometown — the places he knows, the places he goes. That includes walking trails and rail lines, neighborhoods of row houses, and the sea (which I assume must be the Bristol Channel). I’m sure these places are common to the Welsh, but they’re exotic to this midwestern Yank.

Ed offers little commentary in his book, just a few paragraphs on the inside front and back covers. He lets the photographs speak for themselves otherwise. They’re presented plainly on each page.

Ed didn’t say what cameras and films he used for these square photos, but they have the same look and feel as his other work. You can buy a copy of this 52-page book from his Etsy shop here, for £8 including worldwide shipping.

Karen Freer lives across the channel from Ed, in Bristol. You might know her from around the Internet as karenshootsfilm or as sisboombah. Follow her blog, Filling the Time, here.

Karen and her wife honeymooned in Catalonia in northeastern Spain last October. She shares photographs of the region in her new book, Filling the Time in Catalunya.

Karen chronicles the place she and her bride visited, including Tossa de Mar, Girona, Blanes, and Barcelona. This colorful book is like an old-fashioned slide show of all the places they visited on their trip.

The photos are set on colored pages, either the red-orange of the cover, or a turquoise, or a mustard yellow, that harmonizes well with the photos and helps make them pop off the page.

Karen and her bride made these photos on Lomography and Dubblefilm films. You can buy a copy here on a variable-price model. The book starts at £3 plus shipping. If you pony up £7 or £10 plus shipping, you’ll get a print with your book.

Finally, Eric Swanger lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. He takes long drives into remote places, mostly in the western United States. There he photographs what he sees with vintage film cameras, often on films expired decades ago.

Sadly, Eric no longer blogs. But you can follow him on Instagram here or on Flickr here. He posts his photos and commentary in both places.

He continues his series of delightfully named Conspiracy of Cartographers photo zines with Issues 8 and 9, released simultaneously.

For Issue 8, Eric shot a 1914 Kodak Brownie box camera mostly on fresh Kodak T-Max 400 and Ilford Delta 400. Eric doesn’t normally use these smooth films; he prefers a traditional grainy look. He hedged his bets by developing everything in Rodinal to bring out some grain.

Eric’s photos and the embedded commentary are a paean to the back roads, where you can still see America at eye level. This is lovely, lonely work that gives a good view into America’s vastness.

In Issue 9, Eric shifts to a simple Imperial Satellite II camera from the early 1960s, into which he spooled Tower Panchromatic film expired since 1963. This film was produced in Belgium and sold at Sears as part of their Tower line of film gear.

Eric made these photographs at about the same time, and in many of the same places, as the photographs in Issue 8. This book is about the images, ghostly as they sometimes are, backing paper markings bleeding through. They’re artfully arranged on each page, frame lines often present and some images bled off the page to bring focus to some particular element.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a great fan of Eric’s work.

You can buy Issues 8 and 9 as a bundle from Eric’s Etsy shop here. He uses a variable-price model that starts at $12 plus shipping.

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