In "Pannaroma," Rare Camera Tops Marquee at Miami Dade College Exhibit

Not all cameras are created equal nor do they often merit equal billing with the photographs in a show. But when celebrated Brooklyn-based shutterbug, Thomas Roma gutted a Nikon back in the '80s and milled an adapter out of aircraft aluminum to go between the Nikon body and a Mamiya lens a new era in photography was born.

Roma's nifty Pannaroma 1x3 camera, invented at the request of legendary helmsman Lee Friedlander, enabled practitioners of the art form to capture sweeping panoramic scenes of the rural American heartland and gritty urban street landscapes on a scope previously unseen.

The first picture ever made with the camera, by Friedlander--depicting Roma and his wife--is on display in "Pannaroma - Miami," an exhibit, opening tonight at 6 p.m. at the Miami Dade College Kendall Campus Gallery.

Zsolt Kadar
Karen & Sasha, NY 1989

It features the eye-popping vistas of seventeen contemporary artists employing Roma's ground-breaking contraption to create work. Roma named his camera using a play on words between "panorama" and his wife's name "Anna," to create the word "P-anna-roma."

Michael Dalton

"The Pannaroma 1x3 camera uses 35mm film producing a negative that is approximately 1x3 inches," explains Tony Chirinos who co-curated the exhibit along with Stephen Hilger.

"The way this camera captures an image is astonishing, producing amazing detail quality in both the shadows and highlight area of the image and without any edge distortion," adds Chirinos who teaches photography at the Kendall campus.

The show creates a conversation between veterans Friedlander, Gilles Peress, and the late Raghubir Singh, who were among the first to use the camera. It also includes successive generations of contemporary photographers, many of whom were students of Roma's over the past two decades. 

Richard LaBarbera

On view a range of photographic styles and print types find their confluence in both Roma's artistic influence and the cult of the machine. "We are exhibiting works from traditional silver gelatin prints to ink jet prints," mentions Chirinos. "There are photos from 4x13 inches to one spanning 50 inches across."

The curator informs that Roma's camera is extremely rare. "He only made 60 of them and they are difficult to find," says Chirinos. "That was one of the main interests in organizing the show. We wanted to find out what everybody had done with the cameras," Chirinos concludes.

"Pannaroma: Miami" opens tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. and runs through October 29. Miami Dade College Kendall Campus Gallery, 11011 SW 104th Street, Miami. Free to the public. Call 305-237-7700 or visit pannaroma.wordpress.com. 

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