November 14th, 2014

New Book Explores the Rich and Wacky History of Toy and Novelty Cameras

 

The Charlie Tuna camera,  manufactured in 1971.

The Charlie Tuna camera, manufactured in 1971, could be had for three StarKist tuna labels and $4.95. Photo by J.K. Putnam.

Early in his career, renowned fine-art photographer Stephen Shore made a project using a Mick-a-Matic, a snapshot camera shaped like the head of Mickey Mouse. True story.

It’s funny to imagine one of America’s foremost photographers out in the world making art with a Mickey Mouse head hanging from his neck. But many artists have used toy and novelty cameras. For Shore, the Mick-a-Matic allowed him to explore snapshot photography as a concept and phenomenon at a time when photography as an art form was formal and almost exclusively shot in black-and-white.

Other artists are drawn to the unpredictability of toy and plastic cameras. Photographers “love these toys, they love the authenticity of the unexpected,” says Buzz Poole, co-author of Camera Crazy, a new book that recalls the history of mass-market cameras, from the Eastman Kodak Brownie Camera, released in 1900, up through present day toy cameras. The book is a delightful look at the fascinating and, at times, ridiculous forms cameras have taken. In addition to popular and well-known cameras from Diana, Holga and Lomography, there is a Fred Flintstone camera, soda and beer can cameras, a Charlie the Tuna camera, a Looney Tunes camera that talks, and a spy camera shaped like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups package. “That is just a weird product,” Poole laughs. “[The manual] tells you how to trick people into stopping so you can get a clear picture of them without them knowing.” (more…)

September 27th, 2010

Dutch Group Announces New Color Instant Film For Polaroid Cameras

The Impossible Project, the Dutch group engineering new analog instant film for vintage Polaroid cameras, premiered a new color film last week at the Photokina imaging fair in Cologne, Germany. The company also announced a new black and white film for Polaroid 600 cameras, and used their film for the first time in the 20 x 24 Polaroid camera.

The color film, is dubbed the PX 70 Color Shade First Flush, was created with vintage SX 70 Polaroid cameras in mind, however the film can be used in Polaroid 600 cameras that have an exposure control.

Polaroid stopped producing instant film in February 2008. In 2009, The Impossible Project signed an 10-year lease on Polaroid’s former factory in Enschede, Netherlands, and began developing new analog instant film packs with all new chemistry and components, the first of which premiered this past spring.

This first color film offering from the Impossible Project is not without its quirks. For instance, once a photograph is made, the photographer has to shield the film from light immediately for up to two minutes. And instructions on The Impossible Project Web site also note that, “Initial spots or other anomalies in the picture will disappear after 24 hours.” Original Polaroid color film did not have these characteristics.

The PX 70 Color Shade film is currently being offered in a three-pack that totals 18 exposures for $44.

An image shot with PX 70 Color Shade film, courtesy The Impossible Project.

A new black and white film, the PX 600 Silver Shade UV+ for Polaroid 600 cameras, was announced as well. The new film, which will be available in October, features a UV sheet that the company says will improve image tones and increase the stability of the film.

The famed 20 x 24 Polaroid camera also made an appearance at Photokina. At an evening event The Impossible Project introduced its first experimental film for the camera and made nine portraits of guests at the event. The Impossible Project also renewed its commitment to making 20 x 24 material commercially available in the future.