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Why was Speed Graphic not adopted by art photographers?

ChrisBrewster

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This is a question about photo history, and this seems the best place to ask. Speed Graphic cameras dominated news photography for decades, and many Pulitzer prize-winning photos were shot with them, including the famous shot of the flag-raising after the Battle of Iwo Jima. The format is large enough for the camera to have been used in studios, and the camera was considered highly versatile. But outside of news photographers, I can't find any art photographers who used the Speed Graphic. It might have served well in a number of applications, such as a more "portable" version of the style of the "California School" of Ansel Adams etc. Many uses occur to me. Can someone explain why the arty ones apparently ignored it?
 

DonS

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First, welcome to the forum! I had to go google Speed Graphic cameras. I had never heard of them, despite Weegee using them and the 1942 to 1953 Pulitzer photos being taken with them. Then again, I am not up on antiques.
 

Classicbiker

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The Speed Graphic is a classic for sure. I'm considering investing in some 5 x 4 gear at the moment and this one did pop up on my radar. It's one of the few 5 x 4 cameras you can hand hold as it has a rangefinder built into it and a handle. I can only assume the limitations of the movement the camera can do may restrict the artistic elements some photographers want. The front standard has the ability to rise only. I see no tilt or swing option, same goes fro the rear standard, that's fixed with no movement at all.
 

Roger S

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There's a bit of interesting history behind Rosenthal's Iwo Jima photo.

including the famous shot of the flag-raising after the Battle of Iwo Jima
That photo was of the second flag raising on that hill, and it got the nod for the Pulitzer only because it reached the AP before anyone else knew that Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Lowery had photographed the original flag raising earlier that morning.


It's one of the few 5 x 4 cameras you can hand hold as it has a rangefinder built into it and a handle
In fact, Rosenthal had pre set his Speed Graphic to 1/400th and around f/8 with Agfa film and placed it on the ground to look around. He noticed almost too late that the staged flag raising was happening and grabbed the camera by the handle, swung it around and snapped the shutter without using the viewfinder. He didn't know if he got the shot or not until after it was developed and on the AP 17 hours later.

So ends your trivia lesson for today. You may now return to your regular browsing.
 

DwarvenChef

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I use a Linhof Technica 4 for my large format artsy stuff. The speed graphic was a good “beater” camera because it was cheap, as well as affordable. The SG‘s I have come across have all been loose and sloppy.
Now thats not to say you can’t us any camera you want to make YOUR art. I’m sure if you dig enough you will find some one shooting a SG for there art images. It’s all about what you want to shoot, I’m an eyelash counter and get all fragged up if my shots are not sharp. Yet I go nuts for pinhole photography lol, not to mention str photography.3FA45B6F-63F4-4880-BA52-AB0783B1533A.jpeg
 

Petrochemist

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I have a couple of 5x4 monorail cameras that I like for the ultimate control they have over camera movements.
I've never used a speed graphic but know they were intended for a very different market being intended for quick operation, often being used with an external wire frame viewfinder. This will I suspect limit the controllability. I think many other field style large format cameras have more movements than the graphics (and few if any match monorails in this respect)
Art photographers will often have more time for setting up their shots & will want to make use of tilt & shift movements to create the perfect image as well as checking the ground glass with a loupe for perfect focus...
 
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