The camera as we know it today basically started as a box, but before that it was a room, utilised by artist such as Johanne Vemeer and Leonardo DaVinci to aid, allegedly, in the creation of paintings. Its origins however can be traced back further, maybe even to Plato’s cave and beyond. Over the last few thousand years it has developed in many exciting and revolutionary ways, however it is still essentially a box. I like to challenge this perception and transform peoples understanding of what a camera was, is and can be.
I love to make cameras out of random things and different spaces. In recent years I have converted a lift, a hostel boot room, a table, shop, alcove, conservatory, a balcony, multiple classrooms. I have turned existing objects into cameras – a pineapple, loaf of bread, an old black and white darkroom enlarger, a log, a lamp. Or built cameras from scratch out of materials including plywood, sterling board, cardboard and even Lego (credit must go to photographer Cary Norton for this one, who inspired mine). The nature of each camera precipitates a certain type of picture and reaction from the audience. Last summer I built a camera out of a caravan, it was the most rewarding experience of my life! Being able to invite people inside the camera and use it as a tool to create, teach and inspire was so exciting!
I am of course no engineer or professional camera builder! There are people out there creating the most exquisite, intricate and technically sound machines that I could only dream of being able to make! My cameras, and the images I take with them, aim to inspire others to play with photography, to break the rules, make up their own and have some fun along the way! A photograph is the result of a series of creative processes (the design and build of a camera, the constructing and capturing of the image, and then the developing, printing and sharing of it). I believe that the seeing and being a part of the whole journey, from start to finish, can be as if not more interesting that the end result on its own.
I am interested in pushing the boundaries of both the scale and the public engagement of what a camera is, what it can do and how one can be constructed. Taking the whole notion of what a camera might be and unpicking these preconceptions, creating new ways of inviting an audience into having a transformative experience in a space in order to create an environment for observing the outside world and reflecting on how we perceive it when seen in a different way.
One of the elements of this approach that is the most exciting is the engagement of the audience, creating a space that is at once a camera, a darkroom, a studio, a classroom, a space for reflection and contemplation. I lecturer in photography at Exeter College in Devon and any opportunity we get to build a camera we do! From the simplest box pinhole camera to an entire classroom.
I use a variety of materials to capture an image. I have a bunch of 4×5” instant film I use on many of the larger format camera like the Lego, the log and the enlarger. With the larger room cameras I tend to set up a darkroom inside the camera and use photographic paper to make paper negatives and then contact print them onto another sheet of paper to make a positive there and then in the camera with the wet negative print.
I’m really passionate about the sharing of knowledge and ideas around the processes I use. Whenever possible I share how the cameras are built or when appropriate invite participants into the giant cameras and collaborate in the making of their portrait, exploring how people engage with the experience, both inside and outside of the camera, in front or behind the lens, and how one effects the other.
Medium Format Pineapple Camera
4×5″ Lego Camera
Lego Camera Build Process
Lego Camera Mark II with 4×5″ Instant Film Back
Bread Camera Mark II 4×5″
Image taken with Bread Camera Mark II
Portrait Taken With Shed Camera On Direct Positive Paper
Shop Camera At Wex Store, Whitechaple. Making A Portrait
Shop Camera At Wex Store, Whitechaple. Lens
Shop Camera At Wex Store, Whitechaple. View Through Magnifying Glass
Shop Camera At Wex Store, Whitechaple. Participants
Lift Camera Before And After
Lift Camera Setting Up A Portrait
Image Taken With Lift Camera
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