Photography is Round

In the basement of the Phil Mechanic building, where our class took place.

In the basement of the Phil Mechanic building, where our class took place.

I jumped at the chance to attend The Asheville Darkroom's Primitive/Junk Camera Class with Bill Daniel because I am super nerdy and love learning.

I walked into class with a box filled with a random 50mm lens, a busted SX-70 Polaroid, and my Holga camera. My excitement over being back in school doubled when I saw the instructor, Bill, putting the lesson on the wall with ripped paper and masking tape. I thought, "Yes! I've just entered punk rock photo heaven!"

Did I look strange sitting on the sidewalk with a random black box? Probably.

Did I look strange sitting on the sidewalk with a random black box? Probably.

My favorite takeaway from the "lecture" portion of the class was incredibly simple, and something that I already knew but never thought about much:

PHOTOGRAPHY IS ROUND

Lenses are round. They create round images. And then we crop the image with film and sensors. We're throwing away the weird, fun, chancy edges of the image. So I was excited to construct a camera that would allow me to print a round(ish) image.

Photo from The Asheville Darkroom Facebook page (which I highly recommend you go like). Can you guess which one is mine? If you guessed the janky one in front being held up by a pencil, then you are correct! Love it.  

Photo from The Asheville Darkroom Facebook page (which I highly recommend you go like). Can you guess which one is mine? If you guessed the janky one in front being held up by a pencil, then you are correct! Love it.

 

My supplies:

  • My random 50mm 1.7 Minolta lens
  • Matte board
  • Black tape
  • Silver tape
  • Black plastic bags (yes, for real)
  • Hot glue
  • A 4"x5" film holder
  • Photo Paper
  • Rubber bands

With Bill's guidance (although he did mostly encourage us to experiment and do what we wanted, which I love), I made a box around my lens so that the film holder would hold the paper the correct distance from the lens. Then I put photo paper in each side of the film holder in the darkroom, rubber banded it together, and went out to shoot.

After my first 2 shots, I got to do something I've been missing for a while now; develop photos in the darkroom! Being in the red safelight amongst the strange chemical smells with a group of other artsy people brought me back to college days. I really want to join The Asheville Darkroom now so that I can play in the darkroom all the time. Everyone was sharing ideas, getting excited about others' work, and creating great images!

I had to throw away my first few exposures because I had some bad light leaks from where I attached the lens. But once I taped that up, I was all set!

Photo paper is about an ISO of 6-8. I'm normally shooting around 400 ISO, so that's a big difference. You need a lot more light coming in to the camera. Which means you need to expose for a lot longer usually. Since there is no shutter button, it's good to have a long exposure to avoid the camera shake that occurs with hand-crafted shutters. Is this getting too technical? Here's more photos:

The camera creates a paper negative like this.

The camera creates a paper negative like this.

You can make a contact print in the darkroom to get a positive image, or you can scan it and use Photoshop, like I did here.

You can make a contact print in the darkroom to get a positive image, or you can scan it and use Photoshop, like I did here.

This was one of the earlier tests, and it's a bit rough, but that's kindof the point, right?

This was one of the earlier tests, and it's a bit rough, but that's kindof the point, right?

This was the first attempt at the self-portrait above. The camera fell down mid-exposure, so I decided to just change positions. But it turned out to be my favorite image. There are a lot of accidents with this kind of photography, but some of them are happy accidents.

This was the first attempt at the self-portrait above. The camera fell down mid-exposure, so I decided to just change positions. But it turned out to be my favorite image. There are a lot of accidents with this kind of photography, but some of them are happy accidents.

Sarah HookerComment