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Fragments of the English Lake District
large format film
Using modern versions of the traditional cameras familiar to the earliest photographers of the 19th century, Angie and David Unsworth make contemporary landscape photographs of the English Lake District.
Working as a creative partnership, they actively pursue the craftmanship ideals of the pioneers of film photography. This is photography pared down to the bone, distilling the traditional photographic process to its fundamental, truthful core. Typically only one or two exposures may be made on any single day.
Their photographs are borne from an intimate knowledge and close understanding of the Lake District landscape.
“If we can engage in a creative way with our environment, seeking out the subtlety of the smaller landscapes, the true fragment; we may find that the landscape, far from being a retreat to nostalgia, is still as relevant and thought provoking as ever”.
Carrying 30kg of camera equipment may seem excessive in this instant, digital media age, yet it is precisely this type of film camera, with its dark cloth and bellows which give the resulting large format prints their organic looks and colour depth, with exquisite smooth-rendered detail, and without any loss of resolution. Processing is done by hand and the prints are hand-printed c-type prints, using darkroom enlargers and traditional ‘wet’ chemistry.
The large format 5×4 and 10×8 field cameras are a ‘no compromise’ approach to photography, and everything the modern digital camera is not. They are heavy, cumbersome, have no electronics and require large tripod supports to maintain stability whilst making an exposure. Focusing under a darkcloth on a ground glass screen must seem absurd in this day and age – yet these cameras, with their lineage harking back to the earliest photographers, also have their place firmly established with current contemporary landscape photography.
These are contemporary photographs yet the philosophy underpinning them stems from the ideas of the19th Century romantic movement, the traditional ideas of the ‘sublime’ and the philosophy of John Ruskin; particularly his ‘truth to nature ‘ ideal.
The core method of the Unsworth’s technique is about slowing down; spending time in the landscape. Seeking out the interesting corners and finding micro landscapes within rock, waterfalls and exposed crags, in all weathers; getting closer to the real experience – with the eyes constantly alternating between scales and distances; eading the landscape throughout the day.
These images are an emotive response; designed to elicit feeling, recognition and inspiration; sometimes the darker emotions. They follow the ‘beauty through subtraction’ ethos; those landscape fragments which somehow encapsulate the wider truth of the self, the ‘classic sublime’. The true perspective of the crag face rearing up in front of the eye can be awe inspiring, or unsettling.
About the cameras. “3 cameras are used in our work and they are all traditional film cameras. We use a 10×8 Toyo Field camera, 5×4 Linhof Master Technika and a 2 ¼ square Hasselblad 503cw. Each has its own characteristics and each excels in different conditions and with different subjects. At the moment we seem to be using the 10×8 almost exclusively.
There is a physicality to this camera which actively engages the user in the absorbing, image making process. It simplifies the interface between subject and recording device in such an elegant manner, and there is undoubtedly a pleasure in making photographs with these traditional cameras. We also carry all the essential kit needed for any day out on the hill; waterproof shells, insulated garments; food, water etc..and we use a lightweight mountain tent as a shelter from the wind- and it is by no means any exaggeration to say we could not manage without it.
Lastly, we never leave home without a large flask of tea- surely the most essential piece of our photographic kit!.”
Recently David has been working on a major new project, a series of guide books to Scottish mountains. Follow this link for more information:https://greenburnpublishing.co.uk