Standing knee deep in garbage in the alley behind the local grocery store I find what I am looking for. I am not sure what led me to climb in the dumpster, but what I see in front of me is amazing. It’s a Jackson Pollock. No, not literally a multi-million dollar painting, but something just as beautiful. I lift my camera and zoom in on the artwork in front of me. As I focus on the layers of color I imagine the scenario that may have lead to the creation of this masterpiece. Maybe some kid at the grocery store was throwing out the trash the night before. While cursing the store manager under his breath, he lifts a dripping sack of rotten fruit over his head and slams it against the back of the dumpster. The bag explodes and the juicy garbage drips down the wall. The mark left by this moment is monumental, but it probably didn’t even catch his eye. He closed the lid, lit a cigarette, and killed a few minutes before returning inside to finish his shift. I press the button on my camera and snap a photo. Maybe some day this image will find its way into a corporate brochure as the texture behind the photo of some company’s president.
I try not to make a habit of climbing in dumpsters but I regularly find myself doing things that seem equally absurd for reasons I can’t quite explain. I buy expired film. I process it with coffee grounds and vitamin C. I take photos with cameras that are older than me. I build cameras out of Legos. I setup my camera to take a photo every ten seconds for 9 months at a time. I replace the film in my camera with photo paper. I leave the shutter of my camera open for minutes, hours, days, or weeks. I disassemble, hack, damage, and modify my cameras so that the images produced are anything but predictable. I poke holes in tin foil and let muddy light paint the film inside old tin cans. I don’t advance the film and let the images sandwich on top of each other. When I take a picture I want to smash the subject against the film and squeeze it through the body of my camera leaving an impression on the film so deep that you hold the print by its edges for fear of getting your hands dirty.
There are few things that I enjoy as much as making pictures and playing with cameras. The ability to capture light and create an image is a magical experience. The first time photography really captured my imagination was in high school when we built pinhole cameras. It was a very cold day and I remember thinking how long the 45 second exposure time was. The process was magical and I still love the picture I took on that day.
Several years later the idea hit me to make a pinhole camera out of Legos. The camera was a moderate internet celebrity for a couple weeks and now it is hard to escape the label of “the guy who made a camera out of Legos.” Despite the novelty, I actually really like the images my Lego camera produces and eventually I plan on gathering them all together in some kind of book form.
Another favorite camera that I enjoy playing with is my Holga. I am a big fan of double exposures, which the Holga
For a slideshow of my photos click here.