In the summer of 2019, I sold my trusty Olympus XA in order to buy my then-dream camera: the Mamiya RB67. Although these cameras are vastly different, the XA being ideal for travel and street photography while the RB is more for studio shoots and still-life, I was convinced that when the time came I could use the Mamiya in the same situations as the Olympus. Which is how I found myself in the streets of Buenos Aires lugging around a 2.5kg camera.
The first few frames came out quite sloppy. I wasn’t used to the size just yet and shooting through the inverted viewfinder while walking and attempting to focus with the bellows was not as easy as I had first imagined; in fact, I hadn’t even considered these problems. Soon I got the gist of it, moved into the light, and began to pick my subjects with more care. By chance, the subjects began to volunteer themselves.
Walking with a camera this size is bound to bring unwanted attention, so when I found myself in the middle of a televised protest, I had to camouflage myself somehow. I chose the nearest cameraman and began to trail them, pretending to be a part of the team, asking people for portraits as I went along. People didn’t bat an eye.
These two gentlemen, seeing me with a tank of a camera, assumed I was a foreigner and jokingly requested a portrait. Answering in Spanish I indulged them, and we had a brisk conversation about the ongoing protest, although they were visibly uncomfortable by the fact that I actually understood them.
This was the same year in which I shot some expired T-MAX 100 on my Leica IIIf with my cousin giving me a tour of the city. He had then given me some location ideas, so to finish the last roll I walked to Avenida Corrientes to photograph the congress building; quite the imposing architecture.
By the end of the day, I felt like I had done quite the workout; I didn’t have a strap for the RB, and I alternated holding it with each arm for a while until I had to pack it up and have a rest. Nonetheless, I am extremely happy with the results; the 6×7 negatives give me so much to work with, and the tonality of medium format is a joy to behold.
The shallow depth-of-field that can be attained is great for street portraits. Have I used the Mamiya as a street alternative since? Yeah, a few times, and it has worked wonders. Still, I should mention that I eventually bought another Olympus XA which I did sorely miss, but the RB has proven (to me) that it can be worth its weight in gold, and that is to say quite a bit. Thanks for reading!
Well done Simon…you are a brave man to venture into ‘street photography’ with such a large camera…however, you managed well, to capture moments in time that do not appear to be either set up or posed. So glad you shot these images in a monochromatic manner..simply fits with the genre of what we all understand to be, ‘Street Photography’
Thank you, Paul! While I’m not all that familiar with Buenos Aires, I feel like the city lends itself well to street photography. The combination of the people and the architecture, mixed with the grittiness that most cities of that age develop, leads to interesting vignettes of life around every corner. Interestingly, I did shoot a colour roll on the same day but it wasn’t nearly as captivating as this roll of T-Max. B&W is my palette of choice for subjects like this 🙂 Thanks for reading!
The last photograph is quite intriguing, makes me think in those old illustrations with watercolors, reproduced in grey tones. Despite the size and weight of the camera is nice to see the persons reacting relaxed or indifferent in the photographs.
Thanks Francis! As I told Daniel below, I felt surprisingly more discrete with the Mamiya than I had with any 35mm camera, and I assume it has to do with the WLF. Also, I’d like to see some of those illustrations if you have any in mind! Cheers
To paraphrase my comment on your IG account: using the RB67 for street photography is like killing mosquitos w/a shotgun. But you mastered the camera and you have some nice work. Well done.
Hi, Daniel! I agree that it is excessive, though there are some differences compared to 35mm that make me want to do it again: the shallow DoF even at higher apertures, the generous negatives that are a joy to enlarge, and the waist-level finder that make the whole process more discrete. Surprisingly, I felt more inconspicuous using the Mamiya than I ever did with a Leica at the time. Hopefully I’ll move onto something bigger than mosquitos next, ha! Thanks for reading