I recently had a short stay in Paris. I knew that there would not be much time for photography, but I was determined to make the most out of the opportunity (I think I slept for about 8 hours over 3 days).
I photograph people, so I had planned to recruit other tourists to fill in as models – but with the volume of relentless touts swarming all of the famous landmarks, convincing a stranger to sign a model release was a bit of a challenge.
I was also trying to think of ways to photograph the famous landmarks of Paris in a way that was at least a little different from the millions of times they had all been photographed before.
The idea I came up with was to use my Rolleiflex vintage film medium format camera’s projection viewfinder to photograph photos of Paris.
The camera I was using was a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex medium format film camera that I inherited from my Great Uncle – who was a photographer.
I don’t use the Rollei as much as I should – for a 65 year old vintage film camera, it is a breath of fresh air to work with compared to my usual digital workflow. I couldn’t think of a better place to use such a beautiful camera, so this time I packed it along with my Nikon D800.
The idea of photographing photos of photos isn’t new – people have been taking pictures of smartphone screens for years.
But, while I was working with the Rollei, I noticed how interesting the landmarks I was photographing looked on the Rolleiflex viewfinder screen. They just had this really interesting retro looking patina – kind of like the real life version of those distressed film filters people love.
So, I started taking photos of my photos, through the Rollei’s viewfinder screen.
One really cool quirk of working with a twin lens reflex camera is that the projection that you see on the viewfinder screen is a mirror image of the scene in real life – which means it’s backwards.
This isn’t immediately apparent in architectural shots that are mostly symmetrical (did you notice in the photos of Notre Dame de Paris above?), but it is sure is obvious in portraits and photos that are not symmetrical – as you can see in these photos from the Arc de Triomphe.
By the way, the black and white photos in this post are digital approximations of the film photos I was taking with the Rolleiflex.
I was using a 12 exposure roll of Kodak T-Max 100 that I had been saving in my refrigerator for years waiting for a special occasion (more on my experience on trying to photograph some of the world’s most famous landmarks with 12 exposures in a future post) and I haven’t gotten it developed yet.
However, I tried to frame the photos as close as possible to what the Rollei was seeing and process them similar to what Kodak T-Max 100 black and white prints should look like.
And speaking of taking photographs of photographs – I happened to stumble on another photographer’s wedding photo session on a subway grate in front of the Moulin Rouge, so I stole a few photos from his setup while he wasn’t looking (just kidding, he was actually really cool about it).
Besides not being able to use the photos I captured at the Louvre (click here for our article on 10 Famous Landmarks You’re Not Allowed To Photograph for Commercial Use), I had a lot of fun photographing photos of Paris.
I think it’s something I will do more of in the future.
How Have You Photographed A Famous Landmark In A Different Way?
Have you ever been somewhere that has been photographed millions of times and thought of a different way to capture your own photographs?
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