08 Jan

Toy cameras

I’m a fairly recent inductee into the world of the of the toy camera enthusiast (also called trash or crap cams). It’s a very unexclusive group of those who enjoy the challenge of taking photographs with cheap plastic cameras with questionable exposure control and wonky image quality. Here’s an excerpt from the toy camera website on what it’s all about:

Who are toy camera photographers?
The toy camera photographer eschews the modern developments of camera technology, the reliance on computerised exposure systems, motorised film transport, PPI, TTL, CCD, DOF, the drive for higher and higher resolution, for gizmos, gadgets and carbon fibre tripods.
They believe focus is an over-rated commodity in most photographs and a focusing ring to be a needless gimmick on your average camera.
They may however enjoy painting their Holga a pretty color.
Toy camera photographers are rebels who want to prove that you can make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
Toy cameras are for the artist within. It’s all about the photograph, and not about the price of your gear.
They may even make their camera themselves out of an oatmeal box.
They agree that depth of feeling is more important than depth of field. Toy camera photographers probably would probably get kicked out of the f64 club.
Toy camera photographers would probably call themselves Neo Photo-Secessionists who believe in the intrinsic revelatory power of the snapshot, if they knew or cared what that means anyway.
They are also sick and tired of getting stiffed by ridiculous ‘collector’ prices for old Diana’s on e-bay.
Toy camera photographers believe:
“If it’s plastic, it’s fantastic”.
“I can never be bothered with dials and things anyway”.
“My camera is not a status symbol of my upwardly mobile social standing”.
“You may or may not use the viewfinder- it’s up to you”
“It’s all just a bit of fun”.
-Don Brice

My first introduction to toy camera photography came in 2005 when I began shooting with a low quality medium format camera called a holga. I found this camera fascinating and challenging because of it’s limitations, and was determined to figure it out and make it work for me. A full set of these shots can he found here on flickr, and more of my thoughts on the holga can be found in it’s own section of my portolio.

My success with the Holga, in combination with the influence of my friend Christopher Evans, has led to further acquisitions of trash cams. The two shots below were taken with a Time Magazine camera that I bought for five dollars at a camera show last fall. At the same event I picked up a Konica Super Wide disposable self-portrait camera, and I absolutely love it for the weird distortion of perspective the lens creates.

A one-sided conversation

I’ve found that part of the fun of toy cameras is trying to find interesting ones at places like camera shows, flea markets and second-hand stores. Yesterday I went on a hunt for something new, and hit the jackpot at Value Village of all places. I am now the proud owner of an Akira focus free, a Kellogg’s Snap Crackle & Pop, and a no-name yellow camera once intended as a starter model for kids. I can’t wait to get out and start shooting with these once the weather improves, and see the weird and wonderful things these cameras can do.

One Comments

  1. > a no-name yellow camera once intended as a starter model for kids

    While the Snap Crackle & Pop sounds excellent, this one made me nostalgic. My first camera was a yellow 110, it might have come from Sears. I think it was waterproof. I had a brief conversation about it with Prince Charles when I was 9 or 10, but only got a shot of his back with it because it seemed rude to take a picture while we were talking.

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© Rachael Ashe