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Graflex Super Speed Graphic: The Press Camera that Made an Era

The Graflex Speed Graphic, to the touch, is boxy, with a leather side strap for a sturdy on-the-go grip, denoted for its press-style aesthetic. Only those considered truly serious photojournalists from the 1900s-1950s used the Graflex. The camera’s most renowned debut was when Weegee, the newspaper photographer, decided to pick up the camera to capture the seedy underbelly of Manhattan’s Lower East Side during the 1930s and ’40s.
I originally became familiar with the Graflex Speed Graphic when I was a graduate student in San Francisco. My background as an undergraduate was in oil painting. For my Master’s degree, I decided to try my hand at a more portable means of portrayal—that of photography. The most appealing attribute to my aesthetic sensibilities was the antiquarian processes and cameras, utilizing film and chemistry. My original experimentation breached into plate film, particularly wet plate collodion, aka tintypes. I found a mentor in Allan Barnes, based in the warehouse dist…

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