Words & Images by Dean Chooch
I'm Dean Chooch Landry and I make photos with old cameras..
My Childhood was spent with my Dad and his friends in small, dim garages around race cars, motorcycles and the stories they told. People who designed and built these beautiful machines with their own hands, creative imaginations and unstoppable ingenuity. These incredible people left a deep impression on me. I fell in love with the sound and the sights at the race tracks and swap meets. Photography gave me a chance to memorialize and honor these heroes of mine.
My interest in photography was born when I was given a Polaroid Camera as a kid. The instant gratification of the film developing in my hands was addicting. I’m now using a 100 year old Large Format film camera to make portraits of these builders and photos of their machines. Developing and processing all the film in my apartment in Harlem NYC. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met, friends I’ve made and the places this old camera has taken me so far.
My main camera is a 1923 Autograflex 4×5 large format film camera. It’s an incredibly simple design by today’s standards. In 1923 it was state of the art technology. Made of wood, leather, mirror, springs, a cloth shutter and an uncoated brass lens. No batteries, light meters, preview screens or memory cards. There’s a beauty to how simple these cameras are. I fell in love with the quality of the images that these old cameras produce. It’s an incredible feeling when the film comes out of the chemicals and you’ve actually made some decent photos. It feels like a miracle every time.Every time. The film is expensive, the camera is a giant pain in the ass to lug around and maintain but I wouldn’t have it any other way. For now at least.
I’ve had a few funny experiences with these old cameras.
One time I was shooting a race in California and my camera caught fire in my hands. Apparently after you release the shutter and mirror flips up out of the way it can light itself on fire. The 100 year old cloth focal plane shutter is exposed to the sun if you’re standing in just the right way. The lens acted like a magnifying glass and lit my camera on fire.. I smelled smoke and assumed it was from one of the race cars or bikes smoking but no.. Full on smoke and flames. I was able to put out the fire pretty quickly but it needed some pretty major repairs after that.
On another trip I was going through TSA security at the airport and the agent was mad because my camera was still in my bag when going through the XRay. “ I SAID ALL ELECTRONICS OUT OF THE BAGS!!” There’s no electronics in my bag. “IS THAT A CAMERA?!” Yeah, it is but there’s no electronics in that camera Miss.. “ OH REALLY!? HOW DOES IT WORK, BY MAGIC?!!!?
I’m grateful for photography, the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. I hope to make quality work that I’m proud of and push myself as an artist and human being, to leave something beautiful behind and to capture and memorialize people who have a story to tell or a talent to share.
It’s definitely helped me through some rough times. I think some of the struggles we have can fuel creativity, your drive and your resolve. If you’re picking yourself up from a dark place or what feels like yet another failure you shouldn’t forget that the fact that you’re still trying is an accomplishment in itself.
I get lucky sometimes.