On 5 September 2018, I received an inquiry via my website contact page from Mark Stone-Brant:
I was wondering which famous pro photographers actually used the Yashica TLR, It does not matter which models they used for their work. It is difficult to actually see any on the web. I was wondering if you knew which famous photographers so I could see their examples of their photos. Perhaps they are mainly Japanese photographers?
Please let me know
What a great question. Until Mark’s inquiry, I’d not given the subject much thought. I know there’s a tremendous amateur interest in the Yashica Mat cameras. They’re affordable medium format cameras, though over the past few years I’ve seen prices creep up into the $500 range for units in mint condition.
Mark also posed the question to a Yashica Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) enthusiast from Australia who offered the following analysis:
Thank you. In terms of your question, there is no easy answer. There is a difference between professional photographers and famous photographers. The simple answer is that I don’t know of any famous professional photographers who used Yashica TLRs. There could have been but not to my limited knowledge.
Yashica’s philosophy was to build good quality TLRs at low prices and make money out of volume. The TLRs were aimed at mainly amateurs although the crank wind models often ended up being used by wedding photographers and similar, particularly when starting out. These are professionals by any description but are unlikely to be published photographers in the sense that you would find them in an art book of some form. One such photographer is an Englishman by the name of Tony Baker who contacted me regarding some assistance with a book. He has written an autobiography, “It’s not Quite How I Pictured It”. At various times, he did very well. When he was starting out, he used a Yashica-Mat but moved on to other equipment when he became more successful.
And that’s the reality, the Yashicas are very capable of decent pictures but they are not particularly designed for the rigours of professional use. People used them for that purpose but not so much out of choice rather than a matter of necessity. Minolta Autocords are very similar in that regard.
Also, famous photographers rarely talk about their tools. They use whatever tool meets their needs or that they have at hand at the time and in reality, are capable of taking far better pictures than the rest of us regardless of the quality of the camera.
I know that your question was specifically regarding TLRs but Yashica’s first 35 mm SLR, the Pentamatic, is an example of a camera being used not for some outstanding quality but for a reason only known to the photographer. It was not a commercially successful SLR, even though it seems to be a nicely built camera with quality lens. There were three versions but it only lasted in production a couple of years. The biggest issue was a poor selection of lenses and only the normal lens featured an auto diaphragm. Not the sort of camera that “professionals” are drawn to but the famous Weegee, Arthur Fellig, names the Pentamatic as one of the cameras he liked using.
Sorry, that’s the limit of my knowledge on this topic.
So I put the question out to a wider audience: If anyone knows of a famous or influential photographer who preferred to use Yashica Mat cameras between 1957 – 1990, please share their name and any images you are aware of with me so I can post them on this blog.