I Turned A $200 Camper Into A Giant Camera And Portable Darkroom
The journey that led me to create the Caravan Camera is a rather convoluted and random one, but now it exists, what is way more interesting than its genesis, is the experience it offers and the potential of what it can do as a tool for teaching photography.
I bought an old caravan from eBay for £ 150 and with the help of some friends managed to reform it and equip it for the project “Caravan Camera”. It’s not the quickest, easiest or most practical way of making an image, but in a world of smartphone cameras and instant uploads, it’s nice to slow things down a little bit and create something physical! And now I use this experience as a tool for teaching photography.
At the beginning of each academic year, we start by creating a camera obscura. Blackout a classroom, cut out a hole in your material, chuck a lens of some sort into it, find a piece of white card or light translucent material and there you have the outside world projected inside, upside down, in all it’s glory. You can never get bored of this view, and in never fails to engage and capture the attention and imagination of the students.
Then we introduce the darkroom, we make photograms, chemograms and pinhole cameras, we create paper negatives and then turn those paper negatives into positive prints by contact printing them. We get a SLR film camera, take off the lens, look through it, open and close the aperture to see how it works, play around with the shutter speed and attempt to explain and make sense of the relationship between the two. Then we shoot some film and start to talk about composition, subject matter and the creative expression of ideas. The exciting thing about the caravan is that it provides a space to explore all of this and more.
So if you look at this caravan and think ‘I’d love to do something like that’, you probably can! Use your bedroom, your bathroom, a shed, an alcove in a wall, a bus stop, a car, anything you can black out and fit into really! And if the view in front of it isn’t very interesting, then put some interesting in front of it!
I bought an old caravan and turned to into a “Caravan Camera”
A year ago I built a 16×20” ultra large format using plywood, a pane of glass and some blackout material
I borrowed a 20” military aerial lens off a friend
Later I set up a temp studio and darkroom in the basement of a castle in Latvia
The camera was rather awkward to use, so when I returned to England I built a Shed Cam – camera that I could climb inside and operate from within. It worked great, but wasn’t mobile at all
Later I got an idea to create a Caravan Camera
I bought an old caravan off eBay for £150
Removed everything from the insides
Blacked it out
I had a friend Pat Cullum design a paint job for the outside
Built a mount for the lens and space for darkroom trays
I moved the white board from the shed
And it was ready
I tried it out on a local pop up art space and made portraits of people passing by
During the week residency over 300 people experienced the Caravan Camera
After the week I printed 100 of these pictures and had an exhibition
And here is the portrait of me
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