Next up on Xpan Photographer profiles is Walter Rothwell from London.
When did you find out about the Xpan?
Around the time of its release.
When did you get your Xpan?
In 2006, there was a glut of analogue equipment on the market and I managed to get a Xpan with 45 and 90mm lenses at a bit of a bargain price. It took a battering over the years and the problems with it were starting to rack up, rangefinder out of alignment, spacing faulty between frames and finally the shutter release became temperamental, occasionally refusing to fire. Getting film cameras serviced in London is becoming a challenge, many are not willing to give a quote for time or cost, apart from an estimate of several weeks. Increasingly worried by this I picked up a spare a couple of years ago which has now been pressed into service.
What attracted you to the Xpan?
Around the time I bought it I noticed that I was seeing more pictures that would only work in a panoramic format, I’m not a fan of cropping so looked around to see what was available. It basically came down to the Xpan or Mamiya 7 with panoramic insert. I planned to carry the camera everyday and the Mamiya is a bit of a breeze block so the Xpan was an easy choice.
What lenses do you have?
45mm and 90mm.
Which is your favourite lens?
Compact and breathtakingly sharp, the 45mm is permanently attached, I tried the 90mm when I first had the camera and didn’t get along with it, maybe it’s time to give it another go as I’m more comfortable with the camera now. The 30mm looks interesting but controlling the frame in street photography may get a little tricky, I’ve never tried one and with the price remaining stubbornly high, probably never will!
What do you like to take photos of with your Xpan?
I use it solely for street photography, when it was released I thought it was an interesting idea but only really suited to landscape photography. It was only after moving back to London after a couple of years living in the country that I became interested in panoramic. It takes me about three weeks on average to shoot a roll of film, I only use it when I see a suitable situation. The majority of my work features people or the urban environment, it seems odd but panoramic can be a great way of isolating moments and details in otherwise crowded city scenes.
What would you like to take photos of with your Xpan?
I’ve been thinking for a while about shooting a project based around a subject in the city but solely using the Xpan. The work I do with it at the moment is pure chance street photography so to theme something but still make it appropriate for panoramic will be an interesting challenge.
What is your favourite film to use in the Xpan?
My favourite film is the now discontinued Fuji Neopan 400. I was completely gutted and slightly caught on the hop when Fuji stopped making Neopan 1600, its demise had been rumoured for a long time and I had lulled myself into a false sense of security that it was all just rumour, then it was gone. When Fuji announced the end of Neopan 400 I bought up the last couple of hundred rolls I could find in the UK. I have started experimenting with other films but haven’t found one I get along with yet, after 15 years of shooting on Neopan, it may take some time to find a replacement.
What are your three favourite shots that you have taken with your Xpan?
The first one, I was walking from Waterloo to Westminster via the South Bank, it was pouring down with rain and the usually crowded area in front of Parliament was deserted, apart from a couple kissing under their umbrella.
The second one is outside a local shopping centre in South London, I was sitting outside, looked up and this was the scene in front of me, can’t really say why but I just like it.
What is your favourite shot that someone else took with an Xpan?
I saw this one recently by Aadi Salman, it immediately appealed to me, wonderful use of the whole frame with an interesting focal point.
Which photographers inspire you?
Many of the usual suspects, from the classic Magnum photographers like Eugene Smith, Elliot Erwitt to the best of modern street photographers.
What other cameras do you like to use?
I also use a Nikon F6, 28Ti and 35Ti compacts and a full frame DSLR. The majority of my work is shot on film but I’m not into ‘old’ cameras, the oldest model I own is my original F4.
If Hasselblad made a digital Xpan, would you buy it?
No. It would probably be a rebrand, covered in wood and cost £10,000 (body only). The Xpan was a wonderful moment of madness from a large manufacturer, it is hard to see any of them taking that kind of risk again.
Where can we see your work?