5 frames with...

5 Frames with Pentax 645 (Ultrafine Xtreme 100 & TMAX 400) – By Christoph Traugott

September 13, 2020

When I was eight years old, was taken to a camera store by a friend, a featured Pentax 645 seemed like this awesome super-monster robot of a camera. And recently, by random happenstance, when a good deal with 4 lenses came up—without hesitation, took a 250 mile road trip to obtain, rekindling my childhood fascination

I am a large and medium analog photography hobbyist, working in the museum fields. I help out and work with many individuals, organizations and Local and National Historical Societies, per the digitization of whole archives. I deal with everything from cracked Dry Glass Plates to not-in-the-best-condition historical negatives and prints. While doing massive digitization, I developed a further side hobby of finding discarded, half destroyed, and general found historical photos. My goal is to research the stories, and track down surviving family members and give them back. This can be a challenge, and sometimes the venture can be a lost cause, but I have also have been successful many times.

Works Progress Administration, Plates and Negatives, Peoria, Illinois The Great Depression of the 1930s affected the life of every American, including writers, musicians, artists and photographers, and in 1935 a portion of the funding for the WPA was designated for historical and photographical works.

In scanning, WPA (Works Progress Administration) medium-format acetate negatives and dry-plates, I got the idea to start my own small-scale version of Russell Lee and John Vachon, covering Central Illinois, traveling to 600 some small towns just taking shots of whatever is there.  Ideally, I would like to shoot all on 8×10 Dry Plates, but that would be insanely cost-prohibitive. The nature of some of the shots requires fast setup and fast takes, the 645 being perfect here, it’s metering and ease-of-use is seemingly always spot on, and the extra shots per roll, is a plus.

The 5 frames

During its first life span of 118 years on the Delavan Prairie in Tazewell County, Illinois, the barn of Christian Sutter housed countless heads of livestock, hosted many national Amish Mennonite Diener Versammlungens (ministers’ conferences), and numerous Amish Mennonite worship services. During its second incarnation, the barn has hosted a national Amish Mennonite historical conference, a dedicatory worship service, and countless agricultural artifacts to be preserved, pondered, and appreciated.

Christian and Magdalena Schertz began married life in 1867 in a farm house in Woodford County, Illinois where two sons were born to them. John died as a two-year-old toddler. The eldest, David, grew to manhood, married, and raised his family on the farmstead. When David’s growing family of seven children occupied most of the original farm house, he added two rooms for his parents. The Grandfather House, either attached or next to the family home, was a common answer to housing and health needs in extended families and remains prevalent in today’s Old Order Amish communities.

Third Logan County Courthouse, Lincoln, Illinois (then named Postville, IL), constructed 1903-1905. The two courthouses that formerly occupied this site were familiar to Abraham Lincoln, he practiced law and sometimes substituted for Judge David Davis.

Guzzardos Italian Villa, Alleyway Entrance, Lincoln, Illinois

Central Illinois Feed Supply, Emden, IL

Digitization Projects, sample recent projects, by no means comprehensive, but a view of the scope and types of projects worked on: https://digitalhistory.tech/projects/

I shall be back soon to share some found photos.

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  • Reply
    September 13, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    Great story about following the WPA photographers to document a small section of towns and cities in your area. Hopefully you might be able to add people to your work too.

    I have a Pentax 645 and it’s like a big 35mm camera but with a bigger image area and having 645 lens really helps. I bet it starts conversions up
    because it’s a medium format camera and it uses film with bystanders as you’re working.

    Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

  • Reply
    Patrick Abe
    September 13, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    A modern day “Monuments Man” in action! The photo caption for “Gazzardo’s Italian Villa” restaurant threw me for a while, until I saw the “next photograph.”;) In some places, photographs, advertising, or negatives are all that remain of historical places as time goes by. Digital image files may become unreadable when new storage media/systems replace current technology. Analog photography just keeps on going, long after the photographer and his equipment are dust or “in a museum.”

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    September 13, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    Nice! Great subjects-sharp and well exposed

  • Reply
    Khürt Louis Williams
    September 14, 2020 at 2:05 am

    Lovely photographs, Christoph. I liked the image of Third Logan County Courthouse.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    I live just up the road in the north of Tazewell county in Washington. How about that? Looks like an interesting project.

  • Reply
    September 14, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    (Sorry if this is a duplicate post). I live right up the road in the north of Tazewell County in Washington. What a pleasant surprise to read something from someone so close to where I live on a website hosted in the UK! I think it’s a worthwhile project to document small towns. I’ve thought to do it as well but never seem to find the time.

    • Reply
      September 14, 2020 at 6:52 pm

      Also, I enjoy shooting with a Pentax 67. I’m curious in real world usage how much bigger the Pentax 67 is compared to the Pentax 645.

      • Reply
        Christoph Traugott
        September 14, 2020 at 7:15 pm

        Real world feels about half size, the diagonal of the 67 format is around 1.2 times the 645. You can tell difference over 135, but gets more murky 645 over 67, but the “wow factors” really comes into play at the 4×5 and 8×10 levels. Pentax 67II is a beaut of a machine too, but 645 at my volume-level is more economical, that said wish, 116 or 130 would have become the default standard over 120.

        The 645 holders are great, pre-load 5 at a time, but what would make this even easier, is for 120 roll to under go a new development, make 120 into a single-spool, light-tight, metal cassette form, 120 with sprockets, as easy to handle as 135. 120 was introduced by Kodak for their Brownie No. 2 in 1901/02, more than hundred years old and the format-use is still the archaic same.

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