I have a photograph included in the upcoming Art Through the Lens 2019 group exhibition at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky. I was asked to provide an artist’s statement. This required me to consider — once again — why a good portion of my photographic endeavors involve shooting with plastic toy cameras and then developing and printing my negatives myself. As my relationship with these low-fi rascals continues to mature, so too does my ability to express (sometimes defend) my attraction to them.
Without further ado, here is my latest take on why I toy around with this sub-sub-sub-genre of photography (they asked for no more than 150 words, and that’s exactly what I provided, wordsmith that I am):
I shoot a range of film (and digital) formats from 4x5 to 35mm, yet images captured with plastic toy cameras – 120 format Holgas and Dianas in particular – comprise a significant portion of my portfolio. I am drawn to this low-fidelity, low-tech approach because of its reductionist nature – reduced sharpness, reduced aperture and shutter control, reduced predictability, to name a few. These constraints create boundaries within which I find a rich and rewarding opportunity to render the world. Like poets who work within a rigidly defined form, like haiku, shooting with toy cameras requires discipline while offering a liberating creative freedom. By doing less, these cameras and films challenge me to do more, from taking the image, to developing the film, archivally printing the negative on fiber-based paper in my darkroom, and even to matting and framing. The limits of toy cameras make me a better – and freer – artist and artisan.