My Life in Cameras no.11

11. MAMIYA C33

The Mamiya twin lens reflex cameras were a breakthrough in their day. Rugged, reliable and straightforward, they were a ‘systems’ camera coming with interchangeable lenses and various accessories when the Rolleiflex and Yashica TLRs were fixed. Every function was external and visible making them practical, working machines. This is the antithesis of the sealed-up, moulded plastic digital cameras of today. My students are first intimidated by these strange devices but invariably fall in love. A Mamiya TLR is a strange, almost Steampunk contraption to members of the iPhone generation.

According to Camerapedia, C33s were made between 1965-69. Very popular in all its forms the Mamiya twin lens reflex began in 1958 and ended in 1993, a long innings. It was the Volkswagen of cameras, or perhaps the Kombi van – big and unwieldy, but never giving up. Surprisingly German in its appearance and handling, almost East-German, considering it’s a Japanese camera design. If you’re interested, Ambientimages blog has some good information.

Diane Arbus used one, as you can see from this photograph of her shooting a love-in in Central Park (hence the daffodil in her mouth).

Diane Arbus in Central Park, 1969, photographed by Garry Winogrand

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My own work with this camera as a student was inspired by Frederick Sommer whose photographs of detritus opened up a new world of subject matter for me.

Greg Neville, untitled, 1982

Greg Neville, untitled, 1982

Greg Neville, untitled, 1982

Greg Neville, untitled, 1982

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