I found a WWII British Air Ministry Pentac 8 inch f2.9 lens in a second hand store about a year and a half ago. It was made under a military contract during the war and a number of British manufacturers filled this contract. The best of the lot were made by Dallmeyer, the original designer of this lens. This lens sample isn’t marked to indicate the manufacturer, and it doesn’t have a traceable serial number, so the maker remains a mystery. Like many lenses that were made for aerial reconnaissance work, they were intended to be mounted on a camera with a built in shutter. To make this lens usable in a modern sense would involve controlling the timing of an exposure. Mounting this lens in a large format leaf shutter can be an expensive undertaking, and due to it’s size, the shutter options are somewhat limited. Because I’m of dutch descent (thrifty, cheap, frugal…), I took it upon myself to find an inexpensive solution to this particular problem… Bonjour Marie Antoinette.
I’ve processed a lot of film. My first rolls were processed in the bathroom sink when I was a 13 year old kid. Later, I had the run of two darkrooms in my high school; they were crazy enough to give me a set of keys and I almost moved in. One of my first jobs was as the darkroom technician (and as an occasional photographer) for the Comox Valley Record on Vancouver Island in Canada when I was 16. That job cured me of any desire to be a photojournalist, but it cemented my passion for processing film.
I went on to work in one hour labs in three different cities, eventually working at a custom photo lab that incubated in what had been the dish washing room of a former Umberto Menghi restaurant location in Vancouver. It was nestled in a heritage building that was originally constructed as a bank. When that lab was set up, the building was split between an antique book store on the main floor, commercial photo studio on the top floor, and that tiny little photo lab in the basement.
Most of us hold our cameras. Or mount them on a tripod. Either way, most of us are on the outsides of our cameras. For Canadian photographer Ross den Otter, though, stepping inside his camera is exactly how he makes his portraits. Needless to say, it’s a rather large one.
Ross uses a camera obsurace. Essentially a large room with a hole in one wall. In this hole a large format lens is mounted, which projects the outside scene onto a wall on the inside. Using photographic paper, one can capture that projected image. Because of the nature of a camera obscura, Ross was able to also use it as his darkroom. This meant that paper could go straight from the wall to the developing tray. A few minutes later, he could emerge with the finished print.