on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Joy of 6×6

Thinking Inside the Box

Andrew Nadolski

Andrew Nadolski is a professional designer and photographer based in Exeter. His series 'The End of the Land' has been exhibited in museums and art galleries across England and has been published as a book by Headon House.

It was when I was at art college that I was first introduced to ‘the square’ as a format for making images; I bought a second-hand Minolta Autocord (Minolta’s cheaper version of the classic Rolleiflex twin lens camera) from an older student for £40 and entered the world of 120 film. Up to that point, apart from battling with a huge monorail studio camera, I had only worked with 35mm cameras, so a 6x6 twin lens reflex felt ‘large format’ enough and I could use it successfully hand-held as well as on a tripod. Looking down onto the groundglass screen was a revelation. The simple fact of not having the camera glued to my eye allowed me to work in a completely new way. And the square... it was just so ‘different’ to my previous image making. My early student photography, admittedly more documentary in approach, had been shot to edit, working instinctively and selecting pictures from countless contact sheets. The 35mm viewfinder felt like a replication of how I saw the world, and I suppose was a natural visual format to work with whilst learning the technical aspects of photography.

One of my first landscape images taken about a month after I aquired the Minolta Autocord in 1985

One of my first landscape images taken about a month after I aquired the Minolta Autocord in 1985

With my 6x6 camera the limit of 12 exposures on a roll helped slow down my over exuberance with the shutter release and I began to make more considered pictures. I found that by alternating between using the flip-up magnifier to check details, and then ‘stepping back’ to see the full image on the groundglass screen, I could pre-visualise the image as the print I was then going to make. The left to right transposition of the viewed image on the groundglass helped enormously in improving my compositional skills; one of the oldest tried and trusted methods of achieving balanced composition is to see the image mirrored. 5x4 or 10x8 users go one stage further and would argue nothing beats seeing the image upside down as well as back to front, as the ultimate way to compose.

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