SOME HISTORY ON THE SQUARE FORMAT
Some of you may know this, especially those with a long history in film photography (not saying you’re old, but you’ve seen many things). The origin of the square photo has its roots with the original Rollei, a 6×6 camera released in January 1929. It was made for 117 (B1) film, gave the photographer six (yes, six) frames and a choice of two lenses. It was followed by the Rolleiflex Standard (TLR). I looked it up – TLR stands for twin lens reflex. The camera had two lenses of equal focal length – one for viewing and focusing and one for taking the photo.
In 1948, after WWII ended, Victor Hasselblad from Gothenburg, Sweden rolled out the square format Hasselblad 1600F, a single-lens mirror reflex, 6×6 camera with interchangeable Kodak lenses, film magazines and viewfinders. It was the first consumer camera and was unveiled in October 1948 in New York City. If you were a professional photographer (or even if not), you likely owned a square-format film camera. The Hasselblad 500C was launched in 1957 and was one of the most iconic cameras in photographic history. It was used by legends such as Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Diane Arbus.
Many photographers embraced the square in uniquely different ways from fashion to portraits and nudes to still life and flowers and in the cultural and celebrity world. The 500C was the first camera to “properly document space” in 1962 by astronaut Walter Shirra on the Mercury rocket. Suffice to say that the square format photo has a long and storied history. The final model, 503CWD, was released in 2006 in commemoration of Victor Hasselblad’s 100th birthday and had a digital back.
And while Rollei and Hasselblad were pioneers, we cannot forget that there were and are other square options – Yashica-Mat, Mamiya, Bronica, Holga, Lomo and even Polaroid. These days, while we do crop and print to square, our “standard” box is the rectangle. That is the box we most often work to fill.