Best of Bri­tish

A 21st-cen­tury take on the clas­sic field cam­era

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENTS - in­trepid­cam­

MAXIM GREW’S LOVE of pho­tog­ra­phy was ig­nited as a boy when his grand­fa­ther gave him his old film SLR (sin­gle lens re­flex) cam­era. ‘I fig­ured out how it all worked, trial by fire,’ he re­calls. ‘I ended up learn­ing through many blurry shoots.’

Grew, now 25, was par tic­u­larly drawn to the depth, res­o­lu­tion and vin­tage charm of pho­to­graphs taken on ana­logue cam­eras, over the crisper, sharper pic­tures pro­duced by dig­i­tal ones. ‘Only the high­est-end modern cam­eras stand a chance of recre­at­ing some­thing sim­i­lar,’ he says.

So, in the fi­nal year of his pro­duct­de­sign de­gree, Grew set about build­ing an ana­log ue cam­era from scratch, in­spired by early 20th-cen­tury mod­els, which were crafted from brass and steel. His, how­ever, was made from birch ply­wood and alu­minium, to make it light­weight and cheaper. ‘It was a lot harder than I an­tic­i­pated,’ he ad­mits.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, Grew used the cam­era as a pro­to­type to start a busi­ness, The In­trepid Cam­era, mak­ing cam­era bodies, to which peo­ple can add their own lens, with a dis­tinc­tive con­certina shape based on the clas­sic field cam­era. Work­ing from a garage in Hove, East Sus­sex, he in­vested in ear­muffs, gog­gles and ma­chin­ery. ‘When peo­ple came in, they prob­a­bly thought they were walk­ing into some­thing from

Break­ing Bad,’ he says with a laugh. De­ter­mined to pro­duce his cam­eras on a larger, faster scale (a tra­di­tional crafts­man would typ­i­cally make two or three a month), Grew ap­pealed for back­ing through the crowd­fund­ing web­site Kick­starter two years ago. He reached his £27,000 tar­get in just one day – and went on to raise £63,000, which was, he says, ‘quite over­whelm­ing’.

To­day, work­ing from a former army bar­racks in Brighton, Grew em­ploys six cam­era-mak­ers, who have built 1,500 cam­eras in two years, priced at £250 for a 4x5in model or £480 for 8x10. Cus­tomers have ranged from pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts who love the qual­ity of large-for­mat film, to fans of quirky kit. ‘We’re hop­ing to dou­ble in speed and out­put,’ he says.

The most dis­tinc­tive part of his cam­eras are the bel­lows – the ex­pand­able part in the mid­dle of the cam­era, which holds the lens – cre­ate d by fold­ing pa­per and fab­ric in a con­certina. Mean­while, for the body of the cam­era, sheets of wood and alu­minium are cut into pieces us­ing a com­puter-con­trolled ma­chine. The wooden parts are sanded, var­nished, then sanded again us­ing finer sand­pa­per to give a smooth fin­ish, while the alu­minium pieces are an­odised–and fi­nally the pieces are as­sem­bled.

Grew’s favourite part of the process is dream­ing up new de­signs and mak­ing pro­to­types. At 8x10in, his new­est cam­era is slightly big­ger and also lighter than other mod­els. He ap­plied for fur­ther crowd­fund­ing to de­velop it, and raised £220,000, 12 times his tar­get.

‘I’m re­ally proud,’ he says. ‘It was a real “Oh my gosh” mo­ment.’

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