Photographer Mingyang Ko was born in 1977 and has been in photography since 1993. Now living in Taipei, he manages the art space - 198 ギャラリー CAFE and is the designer behind the new lightweight large-format 4×5 camera "Lil Elephant Basic 45".The 198 ギャラリー CAFE gallery serves as a safe space for all the things Ko loves: "I gather some of my favorite things - art, photography, coffee, books, in this small place to share with you." In addition to shooting his own works, Ko also holds workshops about photography.
Let's take a look into his personal journey alongside photography in this feature written by Ko himself, as well as his fresh encounter with the LomoGraflok 4×5 Instant Back.
Beginning the Photography Journey from High School
Around 1993, my second year of high school, I started to get in touch with some basic knowledge about large-format cameras. After graduation, I also encountered them in commercial photography studios. However, not until 2014, that I actually tried shooting with a large-format camera. I bought my very first 4×5 camera at a photographic equipment store in Tokyo. I still remember that because it was too big to be consigned by plane, I had to carry it to the local post office for mailing and it turned out that the postage was more expensive than the camera itself…
"Large-format photography is basically like doing marble carving. All aspects of rigor and technical requirements must be upgraded to a certain level. Of course, if the results of the shooting are satisfactory, that inner joy is absolutely unspeakable."
The Rigor and Technique for Large-Format and the Joy It Brings
For me, the differences and benefits between large-format cameras and 35 mm or medium-format cameras can’t be said in a few words. Generally speaking, when you first get in touch with them, you will find that shooting with large-format cameras requires more procedures and If any of the steps are neglected or not done properly, it will waste a lot of films, time, and energy. A 35 mm camera is like a pencil, which is very suitable for quick sketches as it is important to be fast and casual. Shooting with medium format is more like working on an oil painting, it requires a little more effort, while large format photography is basically like doing marble carving. All aspects of rigor and technical requirements must be improved to a certain level. Of course, if the results of the shooting are satisfactory, then the joy it brings will be absolutely indescribable.
From Shooting 50 Rolls of Film a Week to Slowing Down with Large-Format Cameras
Large-format photography is like a violin, requires time and constant practicing. The "slowness" is a very important element in my opinion in this era of large format photography. The unobstructed use of smartphones has made everyone shoot very fast. I used to shoot very fast as well, from 2003 to 2014, I often made records on the streets of Ximending, Taipei. I shot 50 rolls of negatives a week. It was normal to me back then, but now I hope that the depth in my photos is not just a random shot in front of me, but a product of more observation, analysis, thinking and even synthesis in my own brain.
Creating the "Lil Elephant Basic 45, a Lightweight Large-Format 4×5 Camera
I have shot with a lot of great 4×5 cameras, they all have one thing in common, which is their "heaviness" - the camera body itself is heavy, so the tripod has to be heavy enough to support it, together with the lens and other accessories for shooting, I have to carry big luggage every time when I go out for taking pictures. Therefore, I was hoping to make a camera that is light in weight, easy to carry, and has the proper shifting function. After more than two years of research and development, it finally came to life! This 4×5 camera weighs only 980 grams and is only the size of an A4 paper when it's folded, with a 10 cm thickness. I call it a "Lil Elephant" because it looks like a baby elephant in an elephant herd when compared with other 4×5 cameras.
- Ko's Negative Reality Series
The ways of viewing this series is rather special. You can enjoy the negative film directly, or use the "Reverse Color" -> "Classic Reverse" function in the iPhone to see the films in normal color.
First Impressions with the LomoGraflok Instant Back
This is a great instant back. It can be used very smoothly on my 4×5 Lil Elephant Camera. I think Lomography has been working a lot on instant cameras in the past few years, so I feel the design and production quality of the instant back is trustworthy and solves the problems of many 4×5 camera users who wish to use instant cameras in recent years without corresponding films or camera backs.
Instant Films for Trial and Error in Photography
Overall, I recommend this camera back. I have used it on Linhof, Sinar, and other 4×5 cameras during the test. Since the 4×5 camera I made is only 980 grams, with this camera back, it is very suitable for shooting outdoor or when traveling, it saves a lot of 4×5 film holders. I just need to bring enough film, like the high sensitive Fuji Instax Wide film, which can be used under various lighting conditions, plus I can see the results immediately, without worrying that the photos might go wrong and to only discovered it after developing the film.
Ko's Analogue Future Forward
I think this camera back realizes the possibility for me to shoot family portraits with 4×5 cameras. The high ISO and the black and white and color options of the film are very helpful for indoor low-light shooting. Some on-going projects I have to keep secret but I can say that shooting more works with this camera back is already on my list.
Thank you Mr. Ko for sharing. Modern and convenient technology has made us accustomed to "fast", and I believe that everyone who loves film photography just enjoys slowing down between the viewing windows and savoring the feeling of each moment. Please check out art space - 198 ギャラリー CAFE’s Facebook page for their latest news and Ko’s Facebook page for his works!
Pre-order the LomoGraflok 4×5 Instant Back now to get a 10% off early bird discount！