Whilst having a tidying up session at home I came across some images that I’ve been searching for for quite a while. These are very special images for me because one of them is the only 10×8 Polaroid that I own and two of them are the only 10×8 transparencies that I currently own. It’s hard to explain how amazing it is to view transparencies on a light box and even harder to explain how mind blowing 10×8 transparencies are to look at.
The first image below is from late 1990 when I was an assistant in a commercial photography studio. Sometimes in between working on advertising jobs we would set up portfolio shots. Also working at the studio was a very talented artist and photographer named Benedict Campbell and it’s his handiwork that you’re looking at. If you look closer at this shot you might notice that my left hand is touching the top of a real car – a Fiat that we had hired especially for this shot. We painted the side of the Fiat facing the camera with peelable paint (after we had taped all of the gaps and joints) and then Ben painted the Ferrari on the side and the background too. The front and back of the Ferrari is painted on the background which was a huge stretched canvas flat on rollers behind the Fiat. It was all done in perspective from the angle of view seen by the camera lens. We worked all day and into the early hours of the morning to finish this before we cleaned the car off to return it.
The shot of the motorcycle is another test shot by Ben, this time from 1988 or 1989, I can’t quite remember. The sky in the background was painted by him directly on the studio wall. There was a huge cove at the studio which is where there are no hard corners where the floor and ceiling meet the walls, it was all curved plaster. Ben would often paint moody sky backgrounds whether it was stormy clouds or colourful sunsets. I wish I had done more behind the scenes photography during my time there.
Before digital cameras the main way of checking lighting for a shot was to shoot a Polaroid. The last shot below is a 10×8 Polaroid which I had written 1st March 1991 on the back. This was an advertising shot for Rover cars who were a big client of the studio. This was a shot done by the photographer I worked for, Ian Fraser, and sadly this is the only 10×8 Polaroid that I kept out of the hundreds that we must have thrown away during my time at the studio. The reflections in the side of the car that look like a horizon line of mountains was all done by stapling huge lengths of black velvet to the walls of the studio. The lighting is all reflected light bounced from the cove, coming from big Hollywood movie studio style tungsten lights. It was nothing to have anywhere between 10 and 20 lights for a setup. These were the days of getting everything right in camera instead of ‘fixing it later’ with Photoshop. It was very time consuming and labour intensive but also very satisfying when you got it right.
One of the exciting things about finding these images is that 20+ years later I am looking at the original film that came from the camera. These are one off originals, photographic memories. All this time later I am now using the exact same 10×8 Wista camera (generously on loan from Ian Fraser) to make more photographic memories of my own. I’ve got some Fuji transparency film in my freezer waiting to be used. Long live film!