by Ctein

I'm not fanatically in love with the snapshot aesthetic. Most work done in this vein is a serious bore. Practitioners too often confuse artlessness with art, failing to understand that to produce art when you're standing that close to the edge of an aesthetic cliff requires exceptional clever and nimble movements.

I'm unenamored of "Lomographers" who think that copying the motions of Garry Winogrand make them artists. Garry was a genius and accomplished the near impossible. Not so the rest.

Uninsightful emulation of form just produces boring photographs; they're not even bad art. This is not a technique prejudice. I'm equally uninterested in the renderings of Orthodox Zonies, who think mechanically replicating the techniques of Adams and Weston produce work of comparable artistic merit. News flash: brilliant technique without soul is also boring.
Nothing wrong with fun (viz. my reviews of the $10 digital camera) but there's a big difference between fun and work of enduring merit.

Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity understands both the fun and merit of toy camera photography. It proves conclusively that not only can you produce wonderful art with these gadgets, along with having a great time, but that "plastic camera photography" has no more of a single, forced "look" than does Nikon photography.

Chapter 2, "Plastic Portfolios," is 30% of the book, and I wish it were longer (and that many of the photos were reproduced larger). If you thought cheap "toy" cameras were incapable of producing interesting and diverse art, it'll open your eyes. There's lots of amazing and unexpected work on display. I'm especially enamored of Pauline St. Denis' and Susan Bowen's intricate and brilliant panoramas, Harvey Stein's New York street photography, and Teru Kuwayama's documentary images. Convincing proof that folks are making a lot more than toy pictures with these toy cameras.

The rest of the book thoroughly covers the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, and how) of toy camera equipment and technique. It includes all sorts of cool hacks for extending the range of capabilities of these little cameras—that's half the fun of playing with them. Focus [sic] is on the Holga, but the information's of value across the range of toycams.

Plastic Cameras is published by Focal Press and has a suggested list price of $29.95. Although you could purchase it from Amazon at a discount, I recommend buying a signed copy directly from the author. Authors do a lot better when you buy books directly from them instead of through distributors.

This one's highly recommended.

Posted by CTEIN


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