The Anniversary Speed Graphic Project

Well after a few months of research and hard work, I finally finished the Anniversary Speed Graphic in August. It's been a labour of love but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.

The Anniversary Speed Graphic as I bought it

The Anniversary Speed Graphic as I bought it

When I first bought it, I was quite stumped about what to do with it - restoration vs customisation. The emotional side of me wanted the camera to look like new as it would have 70 years ago. The practical side of me knew how hard that would be - my ability to re-trim a camera in leather was questionable, but also finding the parts for an American camera to restore it properly. In the end the head ruled and I decided I was going to strip the camera down to it's bare components - be them brass, mahogany or stainless steel. I secretly preferred this option.

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Test paper bellows for measurements

Test paper bellows for measurements

The biggest job out of them all were the bellows - the state these were in rendered the camera useless. I attempted to make my own and was not far away from getting a template but in the end I contacted Henry De Haas in Belgium who was recommended by Jo Lommen, camera restorer who also worked on an Anniversary Speed Graphic among others.

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Whilst the bellows were in Belgium, the camera sat in my office and staring at me. The peeling leather was like an unstuck bit of wallpaper asking to be picked at. I started to pick and peel, unscrew and dislodge...there was no going back now, I had started. I had downloaded the service manual for the camera thanks to Graflex.org which broke the camera down into groups and then parts for that group. With that in mind I ordered various sizes of clear ziplock bags - one small size for parts and one larger bag to keep the parts in their groups. The bags were labelled and the parts stored away.

Glue removal

Glue removal

Working on the shell, the leather was held on with an animal glue so soaking it with a hot damp rag would soften it quickly for it to simply be wiped away. Underneath the glue and cheap leather was a lovely Honduras mahogany which is too pretty to cover up. I was doing the right thing.

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A few weeks passed an then Henry sent me a new set of bellows developed from what was left of the bellows that I had posted him. I don't know how he did it but he did an amazing job. I can admit now, especially after my initials attempts at creating my own bellows, that without him I would have been quite stuck and had to wait along time to get the camera up and running. They fitted perfectly first time.

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With the bellows in place, the rest of the camera build was gathering pace. The body was glue free and and sanded down and once oxidised brass fixtures were shining once again. Work began on the rear which was also covered in leather. With the leather removed, it exposed a metal backing plate with painted mahogany screwed onto it. I decided to clean up the metal, prime it, and spray it matt black. I was instantly taken with the look. The black painted mahogany was sanded down to reveal the natural colour of the wood again.

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The front was treated in exactly the same way - cleaned up, primed, and painted matt black. The oxidised studs were all cleaned up and polished, and I had a look I was happy with.

The next problem caused the project to grind to a halt. Some of the screws that were on the camera were clearly the wrong size and had been replaced with cheap alternatives. They were important screws as well - the ground glass retaining screws and the drop bed side arms. This proved I had chosen the right direction with camera because a screw specialist here in Edinburgh spotted I was looking for American screw sizes and that was a problem. Eventually, I turned to a recommendation from a friend and found a good supplier who was able to help me out.

Finally, the camera was finished.

Click for larger version

Click for larger version

I've get a huge amount of satisfaction when I look at this camera now. I love that I can see the flaws and changes that have happened to the body in the 70 year history. What I am very excited about is the ability to shoot large format, something I had no plans to do any time soon.

I have a number of projects lined up for it, all which I'm really excited about so I'll keep you posted on the shape these take as I tackle them.

The Water of Leith Café Bistro Exhibition

As years go, 2013 is a huge one for me. It's one that will mark a change in my life like no other. Fatherhood. In July (or August...who knows) I will become a Dad after thirteen years of just my wife and I. So when it came to setting myself some goals in photography this year I went easy on myself. I decided that small exhibitions were the way to go and that is just what I have done.

From the 22nd of May 2013, I will have eight prints framed and hanging in The Water Of Leith Café Bistro. I am alongside Rich Dyson, a digital photographer, who has some gorgeous long exposures of Edinburgh at night. Katy Anderson, an artist, who has some really colourful canvases based on fashion. We're there for seven weeks so plenty of time to pop in if you want.

The Water of Leith Café Bistro sits on Coburg Street and right next to the Water of Leith. It's a good place to catch your breath if you're walking along the water and they also sell maps of various things to see in the area.

The prints I have hanging are from my Edinburgh series and are 7.5x7.5" and 7.5x5" and framed in 12x12" and 12x9" black frames. They're a good size. The 12x12" framed prints are £40 and the 12x9" framed prints are £35.

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If you're at all interested in purchasing any of these prints then please get in touch with me through the contact page and I can make that happen.

 

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2013

On the 28th April 2013 it was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day and I had been building a camera over the last three weeks to take part in it. As it turned out, I was quite busy on the actual day but managed to make a still life exposure with my creation as well as some self-portraits with the Holga 120WPC.

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With my pending fatherhood, I decided that I would make a still life based on my wife and I's past, present and future. Fatherhood is something I'm looking forward to and marks a big change in our life together. The exposure took about an hour but I cut it short by 15 minutes as we were leaving to see friends.

Later that night I set up my trays in the bathroom and developed the paper. It was looking great but had a slight mottling effect across the image. I mulled it over for more that a week as to what this could be with the prime suspect being the filter I was using. What didn't make sense was that the image was fine - distortions in the filter would cause the image to be distorted too and I couldn't see any in the still life. A couple of people suggested the paper and that is when it hit me - during the developing stage I had forgotten to click the bathroom door shut. This usually isn't a problem as our hallway is quite dark but on this occasion my cat had decided to see what I was doing in there and pushed the door open to stick his head is. Bingo!

Earlier in the morning I made a few exposures with the Holga 120WPC pinhole camera to make sure I had something with mark the day. It was a lot of fun. I played primarily with double exposures and movement within single exposures but, again, my cat was making this difficult as he walked around my statue pose so here are the best.

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This roll of film represents the last of my Fomapan stock. Fomapan is a cheaper brand of film from the Czech Republic and is really good for playing around with. It's major downside is how easy it is to scratch. As sheet film I can imagine it is far more forgiving as the film is not moving but pulling a roll through cameras like the Holga is something it doesn't handle well. The entire roll from this session was scratched badly from a small imperfection in the moulded plastic. For that reason, as well as others, I am glad to see the back of it and would only consider it again when I dabble in large format photography. I'm an Ilford man at heart and will be returning to them with my next bulk buy.