Ken Smith  fine art photography  

Vintage Cameras

I had always felt that equipment - the machinery of photography - was simply a means to an end and best to keep in the background, letting the images made by these machines speak for themselves. Strange how with time ideas change and evolve.

After I had begun using the latest technology of wide format printers, scanners, and Photoshop as part of my photography equipment, a conversation with another photographer & friend started me thinking about the role of equipment in a different 'light'. Many in our photographer peer group were questioning...'what's to become of traditional, darkroom, smelly chemicals?' 'Was the old way dying?' 

At the same time, I was beginning to exhibit images printed on wide format printers using archival pigment inks, instead of my traditional work on light-sensitive silver paper printed in a darkroom. I was wondering how viewers would respond to this new technology?

In the end, I thought the image and the feeling exuded by it should be the determining answer. All the questions of equipment should be overwhelmed by what one feels in the image. 

So I questioned: If I shot images with cameras made 50 or more years old, but printed the images using the newest digital printers, would the end result transcend all questions of process, and in effect, leave the issues of equipment - traditional or digital - so interwoven that the image in the frame on the wall would finally stand alone, either succeeding or failing measured by how it affected the viewer aesthetically?  

It was in this philosophical quest that my interest in vintage cameras began. After visiting websites like the one of Matt Denton's, I began the daily perusals on eBay, learned to repair what I bought, and finally, started using these relics to make images. In the process I have renewed something I had lost over the years. When using the latest highly-engineered ergonomic cameras and lenses with built-in light meters and their multi-coated optics....something of the mystery has been sacrificed to reliability. The old cameras gave back that awe and mystery making me feel more a part of the total process. 

The philosophical questions that began my quest have still not been fully answered, but on the following pages I document a few of my vintage cameras, observations, and - as they accumulate - I will share the unique images they help create.
Please click on a camera below to see more: 

boxes simple ones rangefinders & folders

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