Viewfinder: Through the Ground Glass

“Through the Ground Glass” follows a large-format photographer as he treks through the wilderness to find the perfect shot.

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Today, Instagram and other photo editing apps try to replicate the look of film — and you may even be satisfied with them, until you see a large-format 8×10-inch contact print. Large-format photography is the gold standard, and a lost technique in a world of ever-improving and increasingly convenient digital technology. The quality is unrivaled — even better than the human eye can recognize from a few inches away.

This stunning video follows photographer Joseph Allen Freeman from the capture to the print. He lugs his heavy view camera and tripod over hills and into caves to find the perfect shot. Using a light meter, he manually adjusts aperture and shutter speed to get the correct exposure. To questions about exposure and framing, he responds, “You’re walking a line between being totally confident and then totally insecure at the same time.” He lives in a state of tension until he develops the print in his home darkroom. The contact print created from an 8×10-inch negative has “a real sense of three dimensionality”, according to Freeman. Once you have the opportunity to see a great contact print in person, from there on, Instagram can never compare.

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