Best of British
A 21st-century take on the classic field camera
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.’