Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Alternative cameras



Continuing the description of alternative processes I started a couple of posts ago, here’s a brief discussion of nonstandard camera usage.
This area of alternative process photography includes use of toy cameras, using scanners as cameras, nonstandard camera and film combinations, etc.

Photographers who use toy cameras tend to enjoy them because it forces the user to forget everything they know about camera operation and concentrate on their subject. Toy cameras usually have at best very limited control over such crucial camera adjustments as aperture, shutter speed, and focus. These cameras often produce images with flaws and distortions due to the poor optical quality inherent in the camera’s plastic lenses. These flaws are considered desirable in the resulting image. Exposure is often more difficult with these cameras than with normal cameras, due to lack of built-in light meters and potential for light leaks. Negatives from toy cameras can be printed traditionally, or used in combination with many alternative photographic processes.

Holga cameras are an infamous toy camera that is gaining in popularity. It takes 120 sized film, and is known for vignetting, light leaks, and other imperfections.


This is a photo I made with a Holga camera. It’s an accidental double exposure of my sister.

The Nishika camera has four lenses which produce four vertical photos across two frames of 35mm film. It was manufactured as a 3D camera, and the negatives can be printed by a lab using a lenticular process to give a result similar to those 3D postcards found in souvenir shops. I find the four nearly identical (with slightly differing viewpoints) images produced by the Nishika interesting,and have been taping various diffusers (scraps of plastic, colored filters, etc.) over one or more of the lenses before shooting.
Nishika cameras are no longer made, but are pretty easily found on Ebay. My brother in law and several of my students have purchased them after seeing mine.



Another area of investigation in alternative photography is the use of the scanner as a camera. Collages and still-life images are easily created by using a scanner, and distorted images can be made by moving an image during scanning. the resulting images can be printed for use in inkjet or laser transfers, or printed onto transparency film and used in making non-silver prints as discussed in the previous post. I don't have any scanner images to show you yet, so here's another Holga photo.


This photo was taken in the Oriental Institute museum at the University of Chicago.

During my sabbatical, I am planning on using at least two toy cameras, as well as experimenting with using a scanner as a camera. The cameras I’ll be using are a Holga and a Nishika. As an added bit of fun, I I’ve decided to only use expired film in these cameras. Unusual color shifts and contrast issues may result.

1 comment:

Charles Betz said...

Nice article, you're abolutely right!