The Eastman Commercial B, A Goodbye
Year number six into large format has been an exciting one. New shows and projects are on the horizon, and opportunities to shoot keep coming. With all of this change, there's bound to be a moment or two not anticipated. One such change occurred a few weeks ago.
Earlier this month, I got a call from Spencer Cunningham, one of two photographic mentors I had the opportunity of working with during my time at the University of Findlay. Apart from his keen eye for composition and is his ability to instantly come up with an artsy name for a fine art print, Specer's single largest contribution to my photography has been the donation of his Eastman Commercial B 8x10 view camera. Had I not run into him unpacking this old magnesium beast in his office some six years ago, I may have never even jumped into large format and the kind of work I make now. The deal was, the camera was mine as long as I put film through it, and would do my best to promote film photography.
After a few minutes updating each other on our lives and photographic work, Spencer cut to the chase. His photographic program this year at UF is one of the most excited he's seen in years. They're filling classes left and right, and a growing number are curious about the darkroom and large format. I wasn't sure where the whole thing was going, but then Spencer asked the question,
"Say, do you still have that old Eastman 8x10 that got you started?"
"Absolutely!" I responded.
It was a conflicting feeling, to say the least. On one had, this camera would be placed back into regular use with kids enthusiastic about working with large format. On the other, this camera was where large format began for me. Taking a more realistic look at the situation, however, I've not shot with the Eastman in well over a year. She's taken a back seat to the Sinar P2 in the studio, and the Tachihara out in the field. I knew what was the right decision, I just didn't think I'd have to make it this soon.
A little over a week after our conversation, Spencer and his wife paid a visit to me at the new location of Midwest Photo ready to pick up some inspiration for his current students. Just like working on a photograph in nature, I tried to leave the Eastman Commercial B to Spencer in better shape than when I first used it. She's outfitted with a fresh, leather camera strap, new handmade ground glass, and 100 sheets of x-ray film, in addition to everything else she originally came with. I'm going to miss her, but happy to see she's finally going to get the use she deserves.
The lesson for today, folks is karma/good vibes/do unto others or whatever else you may call it. Pay it forward whenever you get the chance, that little act of kindness may completely change the course of someone's life.
Thanks again, Spencer.