View Full Version : Primitive Photography

Michael Carter
25-Jan-2009, 11:47
Years ago I drew a series of pencil images of Pittsburgh. No money? Talented? Use pencil! When it rained, 35mm slides were projected in my room and I drew as if outside. Some of the collection is in my possession yet.

Today, I have some money and I want to do the same thing only photographically. So, the Darkroom photography class at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts was taken. Now it is the third time round for me as I do not have my own room.

Not for long, however. Yesterday, I paid a guy to help me clean out my camera collection room in order for a contractor to turn it into a proper darkroom!!!

Enlargements won't do. A 20 x 24 contact printing frame was bought, huge trays, the book by Alan Greene the same as the title of this article, Primitive Photography, and a lens from AU: APO - Tessar 1:9 f = 45 cm Carl Zeiss Jena Nr 1569454. It was describes as being able to cover a large format area. Is that a proper lens?

If the men I have working for me come through well enough, I may let them finish my two car garage where I have a space by the windows for a work bench. That is where a ULF camera could be made with wood working equipment. I'm pretty good at that but too tired for major construction.

16 x 20 drawings were about the right size, some smaller, some larger. Photographs abut the same sizes would be really cool. Black and white is my interest, not color prints. Toneing or hand coloring would be neat.

Pentax 6x7 120 film shot with massive lenses are being used presently and I've been printing up to 11 x 14 sizes. The 4x5 enlargers will go much larger but the teacher doesn't want to use trays that big. I'll have get a sink big enough.

That is where I am at.

Has anyone made such a box camera? How about developing huge negs or printing 16 x 20 or bigger.

What kind of lens should I get if the one I have isn't right?

Thanks for reading my rant but no one around here is interested. There is a class in 8x10 south of here in the mountains that will be a nice retreat week that'll give me more experience.

Michael Carter

Glenn Thoreson
25-Jan-2009, 12:56
If memory serves, those APO Tessars were process lenses. I have no experience with them but they should be a quality lens. 16X20 is a very large camera to be toting around. The contact prints should be stunning, however. Contact printing has several things going for it, not the least of which is minimal equipment required. Sounds very interesting and I hope you enjoy it.

25-Jan-2009, 15:53
There are still a few of of us around the pgh area. Well, I'm a transplant to here recently, but I have a darkroom in my basement. I also know someone else in the area who is currently building theirs.

I only go up to 4x5 cameras and my sink can only easily handle 11x14. I'm trying to figure out how to do 16x20 prints in my limited space. Good luck if you build a huge camera! You've got more guts than I do!

Mark Sawyer
25-Jan-2009, 16:02
I don't know whether your Apo Tessar will cover 16x20 or not, the 450mm Nikkor-M will, and it's a Tessar, but different Tessars of the same focal length have different coverages. Of course, if you're working at closer distances, coverage increases.

Finding any 16x20 film holders may be an issue; I'd talk to Sandy King, as his S&S holders are excellent, (I'm happy to have one). You might want to shoot paper negatives in the early stages as you sort things out.

26-Jan-2009, 03:10
... The 4x5 enlargers will go much larger but the teacher doesn't want to use trays that big. I'll have get a sink big enough...

Hello Michael,

In 'The Print', A.A. describes using a trough for developping large prints. Less chemicals needed than a large tray, but better done with four hands.


26-Jan-2009, 08:02
Perhaps you could speak with Matt Magruder (scootermm) at APUG. He has a Folmer & Schwing 12"x20" camera and loves it. He uses a 355mm G-Claron lens in a Copal #3 shutter. He may have other lenses, but that lens was on the camera when I peered at the ground glass. Stunning doesn't do the experience justice. Matt's prints are stunning as well.

Good luck!

26-Jan-2009, 14:22
And another thing: Seems like I saw a Jobo drum for 16x20 prints. You could also process film in the same drum. That saves a lot of space and a LOT of chemicals.

Michael Carter
26-Jan-2009, 14:33
The guys got the room cleared out today.
B&H is sending the sink, stand, shelf, color filter light, fan, louvers, trap and and will be here in less than a week. I'm requesting the table have flat black Formica and head room for the Beseler 4x5 XL so the contractor needs to go back to the art center to get some measurements. I already have a 23C but it isn't the xl one.

Hey, Winger, have a visit and check it out sometimes.
I'm in the phone book on East End Ave.

Super large size may be possible to develop in one tray turned long ways, filled and spilled repeatedly. The sink is made for 16x20 trays and is 72 x 23 I think, 5 deep.
This is sooo much fun.

The book tells how to make your own lenses like in 1815

Michael A. Carter

26-Jan-2009, 19:35
Hey! From Morgantown.

Even though I'm very lucky to have a space big enough to do 11" X 14" comfortably, if I want to go bigger I use the "single tray" method. Very sensible.

Check out the rest of this site for good, frugal tips.

Chuck Wells


Michael Carter
29-Mar-2009, 14:39
It's done. And it is really dark in there.
No 16 x 20 yet, but I just gave the go ahead for a 12 x 15 purchase. Anything larger will need to wait until I can make my own box cameras I guess.

29-Mar-2009, 15:41
I admire your desire, sir!!!!

Please keep us posted- can't wait to see those huge contact prints!

One question though- 12 X 15? That's not a format you could get film for. You mean 11 X 14?

Michael Carter
1-Apr-2009, 09:40
Glass plates are used in most of my cameras. Two arrived today: 6&1/2 x 12 & 10x12. An 8x15 is on the way.
Film can be had or cut to fit if one wanted to use it.
I gotta try tin types, too.
Yes, 12x15 is on order. I didn't want to buy one without a plate holder so I passed on one, then found another.... waiting.......

MIke Sherck
1-Apr-2009, 12:34
I don't think "primitive photography" is quite accurate. How about "minimalist"?


Michael Carter
1-Apr-2009, 18:58
Yes, it has progressed beyond primitive. That was only accurate as long as I was intent upon making my own camera. I will make the film on glass plates, that is primitive!

How about retro or old style or reserected technology by hand?