Medium and Large Format Cameras in Film and Television



This installment of Photography in Films is going to be huge! By huge, I simply mean that it is going to be larger than 35mm. What I’m looking for this time around is the use of medium & large format photography in television and movies.

To keep this list more interesting, I’ve had to enforce a small criteria. No press conferences, or anonymous newspaper staff photographers allowed! The image of the large format press camera is so synonymous with news photography before 1970, that every movie set in the period seems to have one in it at some point. If I used everyone one of those I’ve seen over the years, this list would be huge. I’m looking for less clichéd usage here in order to keep the size down.

Midnight Express (1978)

DVD @ Amazon

“Joey, have you ever been in a… in a Turkish prison?”

The above quote was muttered by the late Peter Graves in the 1980 comedy classic Airplane! While Joey never had been in a Turkish prison, a Graflex SLR in Midnight Express has. One is very briefly shown being used in the Turkish prison by a photographer who is taking pictures of some of the inmates.

Graflex SLR in Midgnight Express

H.O.T.S. (1979)

DVD @ Amazon

The movie H.O.T.S. is a breast-filled college romp from the late 1970s. Odds are you’ve never heard of it. Sadly, the only thing that ever made this particular film stay with me for the past six years is the repeated use of a Speed Graphic from a hot air balloon.

I said before I didn’t want to include large format press cameras in this post. But given that the unique sales preposition on the DVD cover of H.O.T.S. reads Danny Bonaduce and a cast of Playboy Playmates get H.O.T! I made an exception on the grounds of being atypical.

Mad Dog senses topless college girls.
Mad Dog senses topless college girls.
There they are! Throw pies at them!
There they are! Throw pies at them!
H.O.T.S. Screencap
*Click*
H.O.T.S. Screencap
Is that the dean stuck on a roof with his pants down?
H.O.T.S. Screencap
*Click*
H.O.T.S. Screencap
Run It!

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

DVD/Blu-Ray @ Amazon

In James and the Giant Peach, an elderly man is seen approaching the giant peach with what appears to be a Rolleiflex MX-EVS in hand to take some photos. What happens to the man mirrors the plight of the modern day street photographer. All his good intentions are interrupted when his camera is forcefully confiscated by people who are exercising far more authority than they are entitled too. Jerks.

Camera in James And The Giant Peach - 1
"I'd like to take a photo of your amazing peach."
Camera in James And The Giant Peach - 1
"Give me that camera Terrorist!"

From Hell (2001)

DVD/Blu-ray @ Amazon

Set in London during 1888, From Hell takes place relatively early in history of photography. Apparently even then the Victorian precursors to Weegee had their large format cameras out collecting scenes of murder and mayhem. Anytime a new slain prostitute is discovered, ominous cameramen appear with trays of flash powder.

Sex and the City. The Real Me. (2001)

Season 4 – DVD @ Amazon

Season 4. Episode 2 of Sex And The City. Samantha goes into a photo shoot to get some nude photos of herself taken. What do the photographers grab once they stop ogling her naked body? Why, an RB67 (RZ67?) with prism finder. Perfect!

Sex And The City - Mamiya RB67

Thanks to Whitney for knowing exactly what season & episode this camera was in the moment I mentioned it. Go check out her illustrations. They rock.

Julie & Julia (2009)

DVD @ Amazon

Think fast! What is the greatest movie with a run-time longer than two hours to ever combine blogging with Julia Child? Julie & Julia of course!

I don’t have much commentary on this film, except that I give it a thumbs up for using a TLR camera properly.

TLR in Julie & Julia

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