Cortona Via Bencini
This portfolio features two of my favorite things: the hilltop Tuscan town of Cortona, Italy and the low-tech medium format camera, the Bencini Koroll 24S, made in the 50s in Milan. Seeing Cortona through the lens of the Bencini contributes uniquely to the character and expressive quality of the experience.
Cortona is one of two places on earth that resonate deeply for me spiritually (the other, Monhegan Island, Maine). One of the steepest hillside towns in Tuscany, Cortona is an island in the sky, a place that vibrates with ancient and timeless vibrations and energies. Emotionally, I consider it to be home.
The Bencini 24S is a rugged little medium format camera with virtually no bells and whistles. Its body is entirely aluminum cast (I once dropped in on a steep and rocky hillside, it bounced around quite dramatically, and came up working beautifully). Its lens, 40mm at f.2.8, is sharp at times, especially near the center, and beautifully soft at others. Shutter speeds? 1/50 or B. Aperture? Choose between f/9 and f/16. And you have to employ zone focusing; that is, you guess the distance and set it! And it is a half frame camera: you get twice as many images (24) as normal on a roll of 120 film.
The Bencini’s limits and shortcomings are simultaneously its expressive assets. It filters things beautifully, contributing a singularly unique visual eccentricity. You can anticipate what it might likely do, but you can never fully anticipate what its “voice” might be. Its old and simple lens, makes a wonderful tool to collaborate with. I recommend you give one a try…