Dramatic Black and White 4×5 Portraits by Andy Lee

All photos by Andy Lee. Used with Creative Commons permission.

Large format remains the imaging format of choice for many portrait photography projects today, given the outstanding resolution and the impressive amount of detail it renders. If you’re learning about this format now and would like to get inspired with some fine examples, Pembroke-based photographer and creative director Andy Lee has some dramatic 4×5 portraits for you to check out.

Lee shot these stunning portraits with a Graflex Speed Graphic, one of the cameras that typically used the 4×5 format during the 1930s to 1950s. The camera is equipped with a Kodak Aero Ektar 127mm f2.5, one of the high-speed 6-element Gauss type lenses typically used for aerial surveys and aerial reconnaissance. As for the film, he used Ilford Delta 4×5 sheet film. One of the strengths of this portrait set is the pleasant contrast of dark and light elements, made possible by dramatic lighting and a dark background. As a black and white series, portraits like these are stripped of the distractions of color so we can instead focus on the elements it highlights. These include the overall contrast, as well as the subtle textures of the face, clothing, and hair.

The interesting Aero Ektar lens also brought the nostalgic look of large format portraiture back in the days, evident in the nice shallow depth of field that enabled our photographer to create a powerful focus on the eyes. If this retro aesthetic is something you’d like to achieve for your next portrait photography project, you’d do well going large format! On a side note, if you’re a large format photographer thinking of going even bigger with ultra large format photography, Ilford currently has a ULF buying window for its popular emulsions.

If you’re curious about Andy Lee’s work, you can check out his equally dramatic black and white snaps of Iceland, as well as his website and Behance portfolio for more of his work.