Photography News Issue 41

Photography News | Issue 41 | absolutephoto.com

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Interview

camera, just me taking the lens cap off and putting it back on, so it’s like a one-second exposure. The climber would have to be able to stand or hold the position and then we’d just go for it. I askedmost of the climbers to wear white, the shots were in black & white against dark rock so you’d never see them otherwise. How long did you spend on each shoot? Most shoots were a day, because it might take three hours to get to where we needed to shoot. It was a three- to four-hour hike to the mountain crag in the Lake District. I would shoot three sheets of film at one location. Did you use any ‘modern’ technology to help get the shots? The film was Ilford FP4 and I also used a modern tripod. Ilford makes custom film once a year to any size you want so they made me some custom 10x12in sheets. On a bright sunny day all I could do was quickly whip the cap on and off for a ‘short’ exposure. If it was vastly overcast I could do it slower, but the difference is negligible. Back in the Abraham brothers’ day they would have done an exposure of maybe three or four seconds because of the slow emulsions. I was using FP4 (ISO 125) it was faster. I could’ve used a neutral density filter

to give me more control on a bright sunny day, but I didn’t want to do that because it was incorporating too much modern technology into it. I deliberately wanted it to have this sort of whimsical randomness, that’s the charm of using film and old technology. I worked with a guy called Peter Guest at Image, fine art black & white printers in London. He would process one of the sheets and then if it was looking overexposed he would reduce the processing time of the next; it was the only way we could control it. of regret? Well there was one shot that I had to go back and do twice and that was a ten-mile hike. It was just too windy when we got there so we had to go back and do it again. I mean it was a nice day out and we went to the pub afterwards, but it wasn’t ideal because it was quite a walk. Can you talk us through the shooting process and how the camera works? Basically, we’d arrive on site and find a flat area to set the camera up. The camera was sat on a wooden table that was made to fit the tripod. We’d fold it out, put the lens on and then do the shots. If we did one shoot, I’d get home and post the film Were there any moments

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to Pete in London for processing, but on occasions I would do two shoots in a day, I had this portable darkroom that I’d set up in a car park. I could then take the film out, put them a light-proof box, reload the dark slides and then go to the next location. That happened a handful of times, but it was the only way I could do it. On a 5x4in you get film in light tight sheaths, but these dark slides are massive and open out wide so I used a portable Paterson darkroom; it’s about the size of a Portaloo. Pete would develop the negative and make a contact print for me on resin- coated paper, then I decided the final exhibition prints. He printed them on IlfordWarmtone paper so they’re ever so slightly creamy. How long did the project take? I applied for the funding inApril last year from the Arts Council England and that took several weeks to get. I had shot with the camera two years before. It took me two years rolling in the back of my mind to find the rationale for the Arts Council application. We started shooting at the end of July and took the last shot early January this year. I would have finished in December but we were shooting for BBC’s Countryfile (broadcast on 29 January). Looking back did you achieve what youwanted to? Did you learn anything new from the process? Yes, that it’s hard work shooting with a big camera, it’s a two-man job and you’ve got to shoot in good weather. That’s one thing that really struckme – you can’t shoot when it’s windy or rainy or blustery because the whole thing is a rigmarole. If you look at an old picture takenwith an old camera you can be certain it was taken on a nice day, or not a windy one.

the exhibition? The exhibition Instanto Outdoors is at Keswick museum and art gallery, which is the town where the Abraham brothers were based. The exhibition has 20 of my new images and also some of my cameras going back to the 1980s; even one of my father’s from the 1950s. It shows the cameras I’ve used and the photographs I’ve taken to show how technologies have changed. Ashley Abrahamdied in 1951 and his older brother in 1965; the change they saw in photography over their careers was the arrival of medium- format and 35mm. In my 20-year professional career and 35-year photographic career I’ve seen huge changes from film and the advent of digital to iPhones and drones. The exhibition will also include iPhone pictures as well as a drone picture taken in Nepal. There will be skiing pictures I’ve taken with a Nikon DSLR and mountaineering pictures taken on my father’s camera. It shows the changing of technologies. There was always going to be some sort of contextual exhibition with thenewimages I’d taken, but the idea evolved as I was shooting. There are also some pictures by the Abraham brothers from 1910. They’re printed from scans from the originals, so their original images will be shown as modern-type prints and my new images, taken with the old camera are done as silver halide prints.

On a bright sunny day all I could do was quickly whip the cap on and off for a ‘short’ exposure

Left Posts, Knott Rigg, above Newlands Pass which links the Newlands and Buttermere valleys.

The exhibition

An exhibition of Henry Iddon’s Instanto prints is on show at the Keswick Museum and Arts Gallery until 12 May. keswickmuseumco.uk

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