After starting film photography just over a year and a half ago during quarantine, NYC-based photographer and artist Isabel Malia bravely took on the challenge to restore and test out a 100-year-old Kodak 3A Model B-4 Camera for fun. In the resulting series of panoramic photos, we can follow along Isabel's trial and error process, from fixing light leaks to gaining sharpness. Here's what she has to say about the project.
Hello Isabel and glad to have you here again on the Online Magazine! Can you tell us who you are?
My name is Isabel Malia and I am a photographer and artist living in NYC! I’m mainly a portrait photographer, but over the course of the last year I have been restoring a 100-year-old camera for fun!
What made analog photography become one of your choices of expression?
Throughout the pandemic, everyone kind of picked up weird skills or hobbies due to boredom. I am usually a portrait photographer, but COVID limited my photography subjects. I thought studying film photography would help me to become a better photographer overall.
What's the story behind this camera? How did you get a hold of it?
I saw this super old camera online and wondered if I could get it to work again! It is a Kodak 3A Model B-4 and was originally for portraits, but modern film is not as wide as the film that was made for this camera so it takes more of a panoramic photo.
What was the restoration process like?
Restoration was mainly just trial and error. The bellows were in remarkably good shape, so it was more about finding all the light leaks. I did this by simply shooting film and studying the results. The color of your light leaks can tell you where it is coming from usually!
Which photo out of this series are you most proud of and why?
My proudest photo is this one, which is named “Great Neck Dock”. It is the first “perfect” image I’ve taken on the camera that is free of light leaks and odd abstract colors. It is a big difference between the first photo I took.
How would you describe your photography style to someone unfamiliar with your work?
I would describe it as vintage with a bit of a haunted vibe.
What’s the key to a good photo in your eyes?
In a world where we are bombarded with content, ads, and social media, if a photo can make someone stop and think, even for a moment, to wonder about your art, then it is a good photo.
What’s your next challenge? How do you see yourself improving your techniques and building your style?
I plan on starting to incorporate subjects and self-portraits into this series and further refining the camera!
You can never use film again. What are you photographing on your last roll?
I would photograph my two cats, then myself (Since you can only take 3-4 photos per roll).
Finally, can you give us one tip that stuck with you throughout your artistic career?
My best advice is that, while critique is important, you don’t have to take it from strangers on the internet who you 1. Don’t respect artistically and 2. That critique publicly. Find a close group of friends whose work you admire and have some credibility (experience or otherwise) to host little workshops together. Critique is best received in private, since art critiques can be a very intimate thing and should be done respectfully and constructively.