I’ve been trying to improve my black and white photo taking skills. I learned to take photos with slide film and digital cameras, and in general it was for composite purposes. Basically photo-adjacent art pieces. Working with what I have, and adjusting what I’m looking for, along with finding dramatic light has been a very enjoyable learning process.
To be honest, photography has always kind of stressed me out. Only in the last couple years have I actually enjoyed the process. In large part my enjoyment has come from black and white and accepting the imperfections of my own ability to see a good photo, as well as the limitations of whatever technology I’m working with. Though, I’ll certainly crop a photo if I think it needs it. In my experience black and white takes more imagination. I have to imagine the result of my decision and sometimes that means I’m surprised by what I get when I develop film in my bathtub. And that’s fun!
I think that to make good art, you need to look at a lot of good art. Also, you have to make a lot of bad art yourself. For inspiration, I keep returning to these photographers.
- Shomei Tomatsu
- Tony Ray-Jones
- Mary Lee Edwards
- Bill Brandt – I don’t know, there’s just something about how he shoves stuff in front of his subjects
- Andrea Modica
Photo books in general have always been one of the most appealing aspects of photography as a medium to me. I’ll get real pretentious and quote Susan Sontag here:
“The photograph in a book is, obviously, the image of an image. But since it is, to begin with, a printed, smooth object, a photograph loses much less of its essential quality when reproduced in a book than a painting does.”
Especially with photobooks from the 60’s and 70’s, you actually get straight up photo prints. Find a Time Life book on photography from the 70’s and you get beautiful matte blacks and silver highlights.
In terms of gear for these 5 photos: I used a Rolleiflex 2.8E Planar with Tmax 400 except for the first photo, which is on Tri-X 400. I prefer the way Tmax handles highlights but I was on my last roll and Tri-X was what I had left. The 2.8 Rollei TLRs (twin lens reflex) have always been my desert island camera. It’s the most satisfying combination of portability and image quality I can think of. That and they’re just so fucking precious. So thoughtfully designed and dare I say, lovingly made. The waist-level viewfinder also just works for the way I compose. I like a little distance between me and the image.
The square 6×6 format usually suits me fine but I also love the ability to crop a big image without losing much image quality. The first and fourth images are cropped as you can see. I was a little farther away than I would’ve liked. Other than that what you see is what you get. I used a light yellow filter.
It’s easy to chat with people when you’ve got such a bizarre camera around your neck. They tend to be drawn to it but write you off as eccentric which is kinda the best of both worlds when photographing strangers.
Also please follow my new Instagram. I’ll be posting to it at least once a week: instagram.com/solomab_photo
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11 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Rolleiflex at the Skatepark – By Alex Solomon”
Lovely camera – great shots.
Surely you didn’t use the waist-level viewfinder for these? I would have thought the sportsfinder would have been far more practical for this sort of image…
Thanks! But nope. I even have that weird rangefinder attachment Rollei made but I find holding the camera up to my eye quite awkward.
Good article, and nice photographs!
Beautiful images!! You made it *look* easy and effortless to create these! 🙂
Thank you! Nice of you to say.
Great shots and article, thanks!
Wicked stuff, so funny how that wierd old box makes good pictures happen… I’m a bit of a hack at best, and my recent attempts at getting pics out of a large format rig seem to be telling me that my Rollei 2.8F is most certainly adding value! Keep on shooting…
Thanks! I’ve got a 5×7 that I mess around with every once in a while. It’s quite a hassle to set up but the ‘look’ of large format is nearly impossible to mimic.
Thank you for the article and for opening Andrea Modica to me.