Square One

Following are some of the film images I took with my 1937 Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex camera. The camera was a big hit at the Taj Mahal and a great conversation piece everywhere I went. I find it challenging to shoot with a waist-level viewfinder and to compose with a square as my final shape. To explain, the viewfinder (the thing you look through to compose your photo before you take the picture) is on the top of the camera. Not at the top, but *on* the top. So you hold the camera at your waist, at your chest or even over your head, then move the camera or your body to compose the picture. You can’t hold it up to your eye. The image will be a square, 6 cm X 6cm, on larger film than a 35mm camera would use. Composing photos for a square requires a different way of thinking. Symmetry plays a more important part. For me, putting these two challenges together is tough. I think I could handle the square shape if I had a viewfinder at my eye. It’s having the viewfinder not at eye level that seems to throw me. I cannot always put what I want into the image. It means my ratio of good pictures to wasted film is worse.

The Rollei:

1937 Twin Lens Reflex, Rolleiflex

Film loading area of the Rollei

Viewfinder on the top of the Rollei

Speaking of film, there were some problems with condensation on tour and also with the lab. Normally, I develop my own black & white film. However, with over 12 rolls of black & white waiting and the local community college no longer allowing repeat enrollment in photo lab class, I had to choose: either rig up something at home, drive to San Francisco and pay by the hour for lab rental at Rayko, or pay to have it developed. The pay-for-development option also included the choice of having someone else scan the film, which appealed tremendously. Now I wish I had done it myself. Because I am careful, I don’t leave water spots on my negatives and I don’t screw it up. The lab did. Between them, and the constantly changing temperatures during the trip, I got some pretty funky images. A few rolls survived, but for the most part, my images are a bit “off”. You will see, especially the rolls from India, the images are spotty –you could swear it’s snowing in some of them. I suspect it’s a combination of condensation from moving from extreme heat right into air conditioning, and then some odd chemistry at the lab (there are liquid trails of chemistry at the sides of my films). And I paid for that! ARG! Nothing I can do about it now except look at the up side to the whole business: cool vintage-look prints.

I leave you with the square stuff, and the advice that you should always process your own black & white.

Baobab trees in Tarangire

Lake Natron, Tanzania

The mobile camp at night, Serengeti

Acacia trees on the Serengeti

Ollantaytambo, Inca ruins, Peru

Taj Mahal, Agra

Buenos Aires, Recoleta District

Buenos Aires

Tombs of the Moghals, Dehli, India

Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru

Caffe in the Piazza, Firenze

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1 Response to Square One

  1. Meggi Raeder says:

    Great images, Jennifer!
    Really like the square format.

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