When asked Susan replied:
If you were to choose a favourite film camera from your collection which would it be?
It was hard to choose a favourite between my 8×10 Phillips Explorer and my Fuji GX 6×17. But, the Phillips wins because it is specially made for me. Images are developed one by one, not in batches, in my darkroom. They come out like little babies being born all covered in pyro.
How long have owned this camera?
I’ve had it since 1994.
How did you come to own this camera?
I was recommended to contact Richard Phillips by the venerable Linda Connor, who felt my 4×5 images from my rickety Deardorff were too precious, too small. So, Richard proceeded to build #171, my 8×10 Explorer landscape camera. He then guided me by snail mail in how to develop negatives, mentoring me through letter after letter.
What things do you enjoy most about this camera?
I love the large viewing area. There are many steps to follow that require careful contemplation. The more time it takes, the more I take the time to appreciate what is in front of me. The slowness of the process gives room and space to let the scene before me really sink in and have a deep affect on me. By the time I respond by taking a photo, I’m already in deep conversation with the subject and I’ve already visualized — developed — the image in my mind. Then in the printing process I still discover happy accidents, but the sense of that moment is there. I also love that it’s handmade, so every piece of my process is analogue. Factory-free photography!!!
When I’m in the field, this camera is a magnet. I have attracted skateboarders, Hell’s Angels, drunks… they all want to see under the dark cloth into this little magic box. When they peek inside, they see a reversed image of an upside down world. There’s a lot of ‘wow’: I live for that moment of shifting perspectives and weird, unlikely, encounters where art making provokes wonder and connection.