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Catching Light in Italy | Close Up

Kurt Moser spent 30 years shooting war images ‘you really should not see’. Now, he catches the light with his giant camera.

In his decades of experience as a war cameraman, Kurt Moser had never seen a camera like the one he discovered under a blanket in a studio in Milan.

“Three years ago, by mistake, I found, or maybe she found me,” he says while pointing at the 111-year-old camera. The camera, made in 1907, weighs 70kg, is two metres long and takes two people to carry it. He says he knew immediately what he wanted to use the camera for.

“After shooting things that you really should not see, something grows in you,” he says.

“There’s a deep need of taking pictures of something completely different.”

Moser found his change of direction in the landscape of his childhood: the Dolomite Mountains. And he knew the old camera he had found would be perfect for capturing their beauty.

But taking photos with this camera was not a simple task. Moser had to restore the camera, search the world for a suitable lens and experiment with centuries-old photographic techniques.

Moser creates direct positive images on black cathedral glass, using a technique called Ambrotype that dates back to 1850. The name comes from the Greek word “Ambrotos”, which means immortal, and images created using this method last hundreds of years.

It is a time-consuming and laborious technique that took Moser months to master. He first had to find and translate old German and French books from the 19th century. And after, it was all experimentation.

He spent almost five months locked in his darkroom before he successfully produced the first photograph. “It was kind of a miracle. I still have that picture, and I’m very proud of it.”

To dedicate himself completely to this project, Moser quit his job as a professional photographer. He carries the huge, antique camera up the mountain with his assistant and spends hours in his darkroom. Each photo takes three days to complete. “

“For me, there would be no other way of living,” he says. “In a way, it is a love story. Yes, it’s a kind of a crazy love story.”


A film by: Shira Pinson