Feature in the Chicago Tribune 10/9/08
Toy Cameras: Interview and work featured in the 'At Play' section
Posted Oct 8, 2008
Do I 'embrace imperfect images from retro cameras'? No - I actually do the opposite. After seeing the article run in the Trib, I'm not sure why I was included - let alone quoted in a manner that contradicts my work. It's a confusing situation. The full article is available here, if you're interested in reading it.
I'm a bit embarrassed that a 45 minute interview amounted to a little more than a sentence. And it's a sentence that clearly promotes the articles goal, and has no bearing on my work. Rather, in the context of the article, it co-opts any artistic integrity I could have hoped for. So, I apologize to you, my supporters, for any confusion. I'd like to think that any publicity is good publicity, but it's a shame it didn't come together better.
I see a tool's usefulness as dictated by the creativity of the worker. Now, just how were the tools used in this scenario? The article positions the author outside a group of people who are simple enough to be enamored by the shoddy aesthetics of 'junk cameras'. And I suppose we're painted as stupid enough to pay upwards of $80 for one, as that's the lowest price mentioned. Central Camera sells Holgas for under $30. The final touch was a quote from Whitney Bradshaw, curator of the Bank of America (former LaSalle) photography collection. I agree with Whitney - paraphrased: reliance on a quirk does not make a body of work interesting. How, then would an article on Toy Cameras have read, had it not relied on the quirks of the cameras, but instead gotten deeper into the constructive way the cameras are used? Indeed.
If you grab a copy of Thursday's trib, you'll see a recent piece of mine on the cover of the 'At Play' section. A couple weeks ago I was interviewed by Chris Borrelli (who incidentally owns a Fisher Price PXL-2000] too) about my use of toy cameras. I'm told the article will try to identify some of the drives pushing film cameras - particularly lo-fi toy cameras - back in the hands of photographers, geeks and everyday folks.
When working w/ toy cameras, the most reliable part of the image making equation is often the film. To weight this advantage, I may use several rolls of film to document a scene. Upon constructing South Shore (below), I captured more than 24 exposures, of which 7 were used to build the final image. Blanket capturing a scene, then digitally scanning all the exposures gives me access to the best parts of each one.
The final image is a composite of these different pieces. Flaws so common to toy cameras like light leaks, lens flare and distortion are edited away thanks to this redundancy. Highlights and shadows that might normally be lost are pulled from under/over exposed frames. Likewise, a much larger, more detailed image can be built from stitching multiple exposures together.