Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Hassie

I 'been in love' with Hassie for longer than I can remember. It was love at first sight. It took me another ten-fifteen years to afford owning one, but, after that, I didn't use to shoot many pictures with it. I was mostly hesitant for fear of damage. Acquiring it must have cost me the equivalent of several months pay, I remember. Hassie has always been insanely expensive. It will cost you the equivalent of a middle class luxury car to buy one these days. I mean, their latest digital systems, and not the older mechanical, like mine. Nevertheless, in second hand markets today, even the old mechanical systems can claim several times the price of new systems by various well known brands. Hassie is the Rolls of the medium format range. It is indeed 'pro' stuff and aimed at the better professional photographers, who can only afford it because they generate enough income from it, and can also write it off. Also, it could be used for very serious, indeed very very serious amateurs with insanely deep pockets. I'm not one of them, and will never be. Ever...

Late 1980s I bought the mechanical 503CX body and 2 lenses, 80 and 150 mm, and much later I even bought a meter prism, the PME90. I have shot a relatively small number of photographs back then, no more than a few hundred in total. Family pictures, portraits mainly of my kids, and a few still life shots and various objects. I quite liked the result, although analog printing from negatives was a pain in the obscurity of the darkroom, and endurance with irritated hands and room odours by the developer and fixing baths.

Recently, I scanned few 6x6 negatives from those days on my Epson Perfection V700, and I was surprised by the scanner's ability to reproduce the original images in such high resolutions and quality. Few of my acquaintances, especially some who, in general, have never been impressed by my usual work, seemed to like a lot the results (one example is the flowerpot picture with dry flowers, here right, was considered 'in' and 'contemporary' by one such sceptic). So, I decided to start using the Hassie again, in a somewhat different workflow than 20 years ago. In fact, I'd only shoot the negatives, probably in B/W, let the lab develop the films, and I'd then scan them in my Epson and post-process the scanned images on Lightroom, for digital printing, eventually.

I found a photo lab in Ghent, who both sells negatives and develops them. Such labs become increasingly scarce and almost impossible to find as time passes by. But in larger cities you can still find a handful of them around, running a lucrative business for nostalgics like myself. They'd even print your shots, but this is the last thing I'd ever like them to do, unless we are talking sizes larger than A3+, which I couldn't handle with my inkjets. I haven't done much yet, other than think about and verify my intended workflow, but I promise you, I'll soon throw myself into it.

In the meantime, I simply wanted to dig into the psyche of my Hassie and show off her structural greatness. Therefore, I decided to shoot my whole system with my Canon 5D Mark III, and by doing so, pay my respects to the Swedish and German manufacturers behind this miraculous classic of human ingenuity. Feel free to enjoy her internal and external beauty, as much as I enjoyed shooting her and LR post-processing her pictures.

Like a known US photographer once said about her: 3 words come to mind when you hold and shoot with a Hassie - Reliability, Quality and Gravity. With Gravity he meant that her Hassie body, as he was holding it, felt solid, metal-strong, durable, and pressing the release button made the perfect sound, the camera equivalent of the deaf sound you hear by shutting the doors of German automobiles.

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