These images were shot on a 1950s Weltaflex TLR with its 75mm f/3.5 Ludwig Meritar lens, using ILFORD’s FP4 PLUS at box speed (EI 125). I developed the negatives in Kodak’s HC-110, dilution B. As I don’t own a medium format-friendly scanner, I digitised the negatives using a digital camera and extension tubes.
The photographs were captured after I had been sent home from work and told to practise ‘social distancing’, owing to being categorised as ‘vulnerable’ to the SARS-CoV-2 virus because of my history as an asthmatic. This was in mid-March 2020, a week or so prior to the general lockdown in the UK.
Given the government advice that a distance of two metres should be maintained from other people at all times, I began to wonder what it meant to consistently maintain a distance of two metres from other people, and what that looked – and, more importantly, felt – like. Visiting a local green space that is usually very busy and generally used in the spring and summer for sporting activities, but which is currently devoid of activity for obvious reasons, I asked my family members (my wife and children) to stand two metres away from me and hold up a piece of paper on which was written, simply, ‘2 metres’.
The final image, of the derelict pavilion enclosed by temporary fencing, felt suitably symbolic given the circumstances. Along with a bowling club just around the corner (with whom I worked on a photographic project back in 2018), the pavilion – once in heavy use during the football and cricket seasons – had been targeted by arsonists just prior to the lockdown, but in the weeks since these photographs were taken, it has been further vandalised by ne’er-do-wells and demolished completely by the local council. There is more to this story, as there are rumours that the council plan to sell this much-needed and well-loved community green space, which has been a particular lifeline during the lockdown for many local residents, to builders.
I was pleased with the results. I love shooting on the TLR: despite its reputation as cheap and cheerful, the Weltaflex is a lovely camera to use, I think, and the lens produces decent results. I bought the camera not too long ago, intending to use it to capture portraits in a much larger project focusing on a local community group, but my first meeting with this group was cancelled when the pandemic took hold, so I have been shooting more personal documentary-style images with it instead.
The waist level viewfinder and the slowing down of the process of capturing a moment that it inspires is almost Zen-like. I also love the look of FP4 PLUS (in both its 120 and 135 formats) though generally, I tend to fall back on HP5 PLUS owing to its flexibility in different lighting scenarios. The only weakness in the workflow was my method of digitising these negatives. Moving forwards, I would like to shoot more projects on the Weltaflex but think I will need to invest in a medium format-friendly scanner for at home. I would generally use the one we have at work, but in the current ‘lockdown’ I don’t have access to it.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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