I bought a used Mamiya RZ67 Pro II a month ago, a huge medium format studio SLR with a negative area a full five times larger than the sensor on a Nikon D800 or 5DMKIII “full frame” camera.
A decade ago, the kit I bought would have sold for 5 figures, but thanks to film’s loss in popularity, I was able to get it for less than a tenth of what it cost new.
It’s a bulky thing, its six pound weight demands to be put on a tripod, it doesn’t autofocus or zoom, and dealing with film is generally a real pain in the butt. But damn it’s impressive for an empty box with a hole on one end.
For a first project I had the idea, partially inspired by Jim C. Hines, of taking a couple and posing them both in the same feminine poses and then displaying them side by side.
I approached Adam McLaughlin, who officiated my wedding, and his fiancée Casey Grim (collectively known as ACoupleOfN3rds), who I suspected would be game.
I’d photographed both of them before, and was stoked when they they not only agreed to do it, but were enthused. Casey mentioned they’d previously talked about doing some over the top boudoir parody, so the concept resonated with them.
This was my first time using the RZ67 and my first time using film since I last took photography classes in 2004. The shoot was generally a disaster: due to pure human error I shot everything 2 stops overexposed, I was having a hard time getting the lighting right without the digital crutch of instant feedback, I lost two whole shots because the focus was off, and figuring out the lighting took so long I didn’t have time to try any of the other film that I’d meant to experiment with.
Adam and Casey were patient and up for anything, but I felt like I’d let them down on my end.
I had pretty much written the whole thing off and was deep in the process of thinking I’d made a stupid choice buying the camera in the first place when a few days later I got an e-mail with the scans from Photoworks. Despite the meager resolution of their scans, you could still see extremely good resolution in the eyes (where I’d actually gotten them in focus), plus the look of B&W film was honestly even more captivating than I’d hoped.
And though I was initially disappointed to see the few shots that hadn’t turned out and I never did get the lighting how I wanted it, they managed to save most of the shots from overexposure in the processing, and I realized I had enough decent pictures to try execute the initial concept. So I asked my wife Lauren to Photoshop the selects together and then uploaded the finished photos to Facebook.
I did not expect any response.
In the time it was on the front page, my photos were viewed approximately 440,000 times, which means collectively they’ve had more eyeballs on them than all of the photos I’ve taken from birth up until that time, and likely more views than all of my photos I will take from now until I am buried.
Since then the photos have been featured on a couple blogs, The Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, and even on nationally syndicated TV. I’ve had friends message me to say they saw the photos (even one friend I haven’t talked to since high school).
I still have a lot to learn to reach basic competency with this camera, but all things considered my first three rolls have done okay.