engineer

tim   .

                                                      


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.   hunkin

                                                         


cartoonist

CAMERAS
1997-8
I started researching cameras for my ‘How to Cheat at art’ lecture in 1996, and became hooked on making my own cameras and playing with photographic chemistry.  I soon found that the processes that appealed to me were ones that produced a positive image - but quickly!
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BOX CAMERA
My first camera was a wooden box, one half telescoping inside the other, with a lens taped on one half and sensitised paper or plastic taped inside the other half. (I only later realised this design was almost identical to Daguerre’s original camera).

TEA CHEST CAMERA
Besides wanting results immediately, I also wanted big photos. I converted a teachest into a camera big enough to take 16 by 20 inch Ilfochrome paper, using the lens from a pair of ‘readispex’ reading glasses. This is not as crude as it might seem. Early cameras often used simple meniscus lenses as they produced a relatively flat field in focus. The results with the teachest were so satisfying that I built a second camera, incorporating everything I’d learnt.
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ROADSIGN CAMERA
The camera is made out of old aluminium road signs (they happened to be in the scrapyard when I was starting work). I’ve used this camera ever since, doing portraits of friends and the occasional events or parties. The photos have a wonderful quality of light, mainly because of the simple lens. Things can be in very sharp focus (as there’s no enlargement, its like having a 16 by 20 negative), but also have a glow round the edges (due to the centre of the lens not being in exactly the same focus as the periphery). The Ilfochrome process gives an enormous depth of colour so it is possible to pick out details in deep shade that could never be seen in a normal print.

The lens is about f8 and exposures range from a quarter second out doors to 30 seconds indoors. At first I though everyone I photographed would have ‘frozen’ expressions – but they don’t seem to. The face muscles have to be at rest to hold an expression for half a minute, but I now think this helps to make portraits more recognisable and telling. It removes the transitory expressions that make so many ‘snaps’ look unrecognisable. The cliché of the frozen expression comes from victorian photos, when people felt they were expected to look formal in their photos.

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SUITCASE CAMERA
This is simply a suitcase with a lens (from an old graphics camera) screwed in the front. It takes great 12 by 16 ilfochrome prints. As with the roadsign camera, the photos are developed by pouring the developing chemicals into the camera. I developed it for a British council tour of Australia - it was the main prop and the suitcase for all the other props for my 'How to Cheat at Art' lecture.

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I spent months playing with collodion wet plate photography producing ambrotypes. Seen against a white background, these appear as negatives, but against black they appear as positives. These fragile, spooky images are wonderful – and working with them made reading tales of 19th century photographers very vivid. I hope to return to them sometime to make the results more repeatable and to make the process portable – but at the time I got side-tracked by Ilfochrome.

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Ilfochrome (Originally Cibachrome) photo paper is intended for use in the dark room for making prints from positive colour transparencies. Used in a camera Ilfochrome paper will produce a positive image given long enough – it has an ASA of about 5.
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I’ve spent a week with the camera in the V & A taking pictures of the galleries and visitors, and a month in America (as part of my residency at the Tryon centre for Visual Arts, Charlotte NC). My portrait of Richard Gregory is in the national portrait gallery (though not always on display).

  The computer screen dosen't do justice to the quality of the photos
but I have scanned in one larger print(about 170k)

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