Saddleworth photographer develops interesting shots with huge vintage camera

A Saddleworth photographer has brought a giant piece of the borough’s manufacturing heritage back into use after finding it in the stores of Gallery Oldham.

Over the last two years Ian Beesley has been working with the gallery as an artist in residence and has developed an interest in the pieces contained in its collections.

While poring over the many items his well-trained eye was caught by a large Hunter Penrose industrial process camera.

The vintage piece had been used in the manufacture of wallpaper at Rome Mill in Springhead for many years before being donated to the Gallery.

Within seconds of seeing the wooden camera he decided to get it back in working order, which involved specialist restoration of the lens and a good deal of cleaning.

Most importantly Ian had to meet the challenge of using a camera that was designed for huge negatives 20 inches square.

His solution was to create a grid which could take smaller negatives resulting in images made up of 20 separate prints.

The next step was to take the camera out on the road, transporting it in a transit van, which doubled as a darkroom enabling the slides to be reloaded out in the field.

Several images were taken around Oldham and visitors can see a selection of these in the Designs on our Future exhibition at Gallery Oldham until October 3.

Ian said: “Wherever we took this camera people were fascinated by its scale and by the effort involved in making just one image.

“It has been great fun and a real challenge getting this far and I’m hoping to produce a full scale exhibition with this camera eventually.”

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Co-operatives, said: “We are delighted Ian has managed to bring this huge camera back into use.

“This camera is just one of the many items we have in our collections down at Gallery Oldham and I’d urge residents to go along and see what is on offer.”

Did you work with this camera at Rome Mill? The Gallery would love to hear from people with memories of using this camera over the years. Please contact curator Sean Baggaley


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