I was reading about the medium format cameras used for professional food photography the other day - £20,000 to take a photo of a burger. I mean, it is a really nice photo, but photography doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, you can even turn rubbish bins into cameras, using a technique that's been around for over 1000 years - pinhole photography. If you never made one of these in GCSE art, I'll explain in brief; a pinhole camera is a dark box with a tiny hole in one side. Whatever is on the outside of the hole is projected, upside down, on the inside of the dark box. If you put some photographic paper inside, you can record the image. It's that simple.
Of course being so easy humans complicated it, turning such ersatz objects as beer cans, eggs and ducks into cameras.
Binman Hans-Dieter Braatz adjusts the shutter on a garbage container transformed into a pinhole camera.
Back in April last year, a group of binmen in Hamburg decided to make their days hauling wheelie bins about a bit more interesting, by turning said dumpsters into giant pinhole cameras. The refuse collectors worked with photographer Matthias Hewing to develop the Trashcam project, and have now created a beautiful series of photographs from around the north German city.
Sure, a 1,100 litre bin might make your point & shoot seem pretty cumbersome, but you could fit a 747 inside this camera. A collective called The Legacy Project took an abandoned jet hangar in California, and blacked it out using 24,000 square feet of plastic, 1,300 gallons of foam filler, 1.52 miles of tape, and 40 cans of spray paint. The 'photo paper' weighed 500 kg and took 600 gallons of developer and twice that amount of fixer. The result? At 9.8 x 34 metres, the largest photo ever made.
From the very big, to the very small. Eggs have so much potential - scrambled, fried, poached - and also apparently photo paper. Francesco Capponi saw beyond breakfast and coated the inside of a hollowed out egg with emulsion to make it light-sensitive, and then sealed up all but a tiny hole using tape and a brass plate and crouched in front of it naked. As you do. Of course, eggs being pretty fragile it took Capponi around a dozen to get each successful photo. Well worth it, I'm sure you'll agree. Do it yourself by following his instructions here.
Peking Roast Duck
Step one, buy yourself a roast duck. Step two, cut a hole in the duck. Step three, put your d-- sorry, where were we? Pinhole cameras. Yes, it turns out even Chinatown's finest feathered foodstuff can be repurposed to take photos. Melbourne photographer, professed Cantonese barbecue-lover and former-waiter, Martin Cheung, decided in 2001 that he would turn a roast duck into a camera. He said of the experience, "Many people recognised me on the street during the exposure, [and asked,] 'Aren't you the guy from that Chinese Restaurant?'. I felt as if I was the duck - the icon of Chinatown." He's also written a step-by-step guide, if you're interested. He suggests you chill your duck in the fridge to minimise grease transfer, which makes sense (in as much as any advice from a man who makes cameras out of ducks can).
It might seem relatively tame after the poultry snapper, but the Fosters can cam is worthy of mention because UK-based photographer Matt Bigwood used it to make six month exposures. Those trails? Not stars, not planes, but the changing path of the sun with the seasons (it's called a solargraph). The aluminium can is practical in this case too too - since it can weather the environment pretty well, and who's going to pay any attention to a taped up old tinnie? Find out how to make your own here.