This interview first appeared on 13 September 2017 in the Royal Photographic Society’s blog.
Interview with Max Grew, founder of the Intrepid Camera Company
Last June I visited the Intrepid Camera Company in Brighton. I was warmly received by Max, who showed me around the premises and spent some time explaining what the company is all about, how it all started, and its plans for the future.
8×10 Intrepid Camera © Max Grew
Chelin : How long have you been making Intrepid Cameras?
Max: We have been designing and producing Large Format Cameras for the last three years. We have shipped to over 1000 happy customers.
CM: How did it all start?
Max: I did a degree in product design and I was interested in photography as well, so those things merged together and got me on this path. I like to experiment with different processes, and I wanted to do something bigger, so I started building cameras. About 5 years ago I started thinking about it and now we’ve been going for 3 years. We began with the 4×5, which is a huge success. Our new product, the 8×10 camera, was also a kickstarter. The first batch will be shipped at the beginning of September.
CM: Why did you decide to make Large Format cameras?
Max: Large analogue film cameras allow you to have complete control over the camera and shoot onto massive sheets of film, but they are very expensive: one of the reasons why people have not been able to experiment with this fantastic format is the price, and this is a real shame. The digital revolution changed the game completely in photography – it became accessible and affordable to all, but with that, a bit of the magic was lost. Our aim is to make large format photography accessible to a much wider audience. If you are completely new to large format, then the range of Intrepid Cameras is a fantastic place to start, and if you are an old hand at all things LF, then an Intrepid could be the light weight, compact and affordable camera you have been looking for.
CM: Was it difficult to set up the kickstarter?
Max: We began with the 4×5 model three years ago. I had a lot of help from people who were creative types. There was a lot of prep-work to get ready, but there weren’t a lot of hurdles to jump. The main thing was getting the work done, it involved a lot of planning and prototyping; and making sure that as many people knew about it as possible before we launched, otherwise people would not bother looking. There’s a lot of prep-work in terms of getting your name out there, that’s really important. For the latest kickstarter, the 8×10, we got our target within 12 minutes. There is a much larger community wanting to shoot 8×10 than I had anticipated.
CM: How do you cope with the huge demand?
We build everything here in this workshop so we have control over production. We can hire people and buy bigger machines. The first batch of 8×10 goes out in September, and we’ll be shipping a 4×5 batch tomorrow and another batch a month after.
Max, Gemma and James at the Intrepid Camera Company in Brighton © Chelin Miller
CM: How many people are in the company?
Max: It’s three of us: James, Gemma and myself. When the company first started we had help setting up on the creative side of things, but now Eddie has moved on to continue with other projects.
Break © Justin Lowery
CM: How did you create such a big community of followers?
Max: We are trying to build a community through our blog and social media. We often have people write articles and reviews. Meredith Wilson experiments with expired film, Justin Lowery, who is in America, tries and tests our new equipment and sends us great reviews – his feedback helps us tune-up the camera for the photographer’s needs. Ben Horne, who has the perfect voice for tutorials, is doing videos on youtube and we are hoping that he will include some more.
There are so many supporting industries: the camera makers, the lens makers, the shutter makers, these two are gone now and they can’t come back. Ben is good at promoting the film industry. Justin in America works very hard at promoting our camera. We also collaborated with Emulsive, British Journal of Photography and Magnum with the aim to encourage people to continue using film. We are trying to widen the spectrum of people who use large format cameras, we want to make them more accessible to young people and to bridge the gender gap. By having an affordable product, everyone will have access to it – as a company, we hope that a wider spectrum of the population will embrace large format.
Gold – New 55 Instant Film © Meredith Wilson
CM: In what ways can you use the 8×10?
Max: One of the greatest things about 8×10 is the wide range of options you have for creating an image. If you want to stick to the traditional, you can shoot film still manufactured by several companies including Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, Foma, Berger, Adox, Arrista, Rollie, and Shanghai; you can shoot Instant film made by Impossible. One of the great things about having a large sheet of film is how easy it is to make an incredible contact print with only some basic and affordable kit – such as cyanotypes, salt prints and other alternative processes. One of my favourite experiments is the RA4 reversal process, where you print negatives onto photographic colour paper (Fuji): you shoot directly onto that, develop it and then you expose it to light again, you develop it again and you get a positive. It can also be done with black and white paper. And the beauty of this method is, that this paper is still available, it’s one of the most abundant analogue materials – because it is used in high quality photo printing, so even if it’s a digital print, it just goes on this paper – and you can do it at home, in trays. It’s cool because the second half you can do with the lights on.
A line of 4x5s ready to be shipped to their new owners © Chelin Miller
CM: Why are you so passionate about Large format photography?
Max: Large format is probably the most rewarding and true type of photography you can experience; you are completely transported to a magical world underneath that dark cloth; nothing compares to composing an image on the ground glass, and prints made from the giant negatives have a quality to them that is like nothing else. If you are completely new to large format, then the range of Intrepid Cameras is a fantastic place to start, and if you are an old hand at all things LF then an Intrepid could be the light weight, compact and affordable camera you have been looking for – watch this video to get you inspired https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2utGz-1RB1w.