Exhibition at Ebrington for the UK City of Culture

It’s amazing to think how quickly the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations seem to fly by. It was a brilliant year for Derry-Londonderry and it was a real privilege to have our photography displayed during the year. As it’s almost a year since our work was installed at Ebrington Square, Paul and I headed over last week to have a look at our work and to see how it had coped with the effects of the winter storms beating down on it. We’re delighted to say that, despite them being up for almost a year, the pictures are still looking great. Three of the billboards are still up, so if you’re in the area, have a look and let us know what you think.

Rephotography (or “then and now” photography as it is sometimes called) seems to have really taken off recently, with lots of people doing similar projects to mark events and anniversaries. Those that use photographs from the first and second world wars are particularly poignant. Whatever the project, and whether you use digital, or like us, the old-style large format camera with your head stuck under the black cloth, it’s great to see old photographs being used in different ways to be seen by a new generation. The original photographs that we merged our own images with, are over one hundred years old and were taken with a camera similar to ours. I wonder how the city will look in another hundred years… .

Carlisle Road

Carlisle Road

Bishop's Gate

Bishop’s Gate

Bishop's Gate

Bishop’s Gate

Guildhall Square and Peace Bridge

Guildhall Square and Peace Bridge

Information Panel

Information Panel

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Our Camera

The Large Format Camera

The large format camera

It’s about time that we told you a bit about the camera that we use on both projects. It’s a large format camera, which uses 5″ x 4″ film.  It’s based on the technology used by photographers 100 years ago, though it’s actually a new camera and has the same beautiful combination of wooden frame with metal hinges and bellows that photographers such as Robert French and R. J. Welch would have used in Ireland at the turn of the last century. The only difference is that we use film rather than glass plates that are difficult to source and process.

The reason that we use this camera is simply because it uses the same technology that French and Welch used.  Re-photography is all about putting ourselves in exactly the same position as the original photographer.  Understanding their process, what they were thinking when they clicked the shutter, what they wanted to include and what to leave out of their shot are all things we consider, just like with any camera.  But using a large format camera involves a lengthy process of examining an image upside and back to front with a lupe, under a black cloth, and given that it can cost £10 every time you take a picture, we tend to do everything quite slowly!  If we take 3 pictures in a morning, we’ve been very busy.

We’ll describe more about our actual process in later posts, but hopefully this gives you an idea of why we use such a beautiful piece of equipment. The couple of pictures that we’ve attached to this post show you the camera itself, as well as shot taken under the hood during our BBC project.

Under the hood

Under the hood