Jonathan Bailey  
photographer 207-372-8514
galleries workshops writings bio contact
line Workshops line

Gallery Five

"The Prospect of Light:"
An exhibition of photographic images made with plastic and pinhole cameras.

January 23 - March 27, 2004

The University of Maine Museum of Art
Bangor, Maine

Curated by Jonathan Bailey and Wally Mason

Installation at UMMA

Given my personal involvement with the plastic "Diana" camera dating back to 1979, I was delighted at the opportunity to co-curate an exhibition of low-tech images with my good friend and fellow photographer Wally Mason (director and curator of the University's Museum of Art). It was fascinating for me to be on the other side of the fence and see what it takes to choose and then to mount an exhibition like this from beginning to end. We did not set out to do the "definitive" low-tech exhibition, but simply gathered together from over 100 artist's submissions what we hoped would be a cohesive and compelling group show.

Some background for those of you who might wonder why photographers might opt to use such primitive equipment:

The real asset with plastic and pinhole cameras is the ability to work spontaneously and intuitively. There simply are no mechanisms on the camera to manipulate to distract you from the picture taking process. One exposes film more freely.

It is interesting to note that the recent rise of high-tech photography in the form of digital imaging and digital manipulation of images has in many ways encouraged a resurgence of interest in more "handmade" approaches to the photographic image - complete with all the foibles and "imperfections" inherent in the process. Many artists simply need to have their hands on the tools and materials - to be more in direct contact than "modern" cameras and digital printing processes allow.

The author Thomas Moore explains that "technology" today is commonly understood to reference machines and instrumentation and is often thought of in relation to progress or to the "advancement" of humankind through inert devices.

He goes on to contrast this present day understanding with that of the ancient Greeks who understood the word to encompass a much broader meaning including "an art or craft, art skill, cunning of hand, craftsmanship, an artful device, a method of making or doing." (From Thomas Moore's Meaningful Work.)

It is against this backdrop of deeper allusions that we present this exhibition of low-tech imagery.

* The Plastic Camera Artists:

I believe it was Arnold Gassan - teaching at Ohio (State?) in the mid- to late-60's - who first had his photo students go out and work with the Diana camera. Since then, there has been a bit of an underground "cult" for these cameras.

The Diana cost $2 at "Five and Dime" stores and were given away as carnival prizes and for cereal box tops. They were produced under many different names (Dory, Banner, etc) - but they always were the identifiable blue and black cameras. Dianas ceased being produced in Hong Kong in the early 1980's - and the molds for the camera were destroyed. Their continued popularity - indeed, their increasing popularity - gave rise to the "Holga" camera going into production to satisfy the demand. Holgas are widely available and cost approximately $25. Dianas are still available on eBay and typically fetch $100 - and not uncommonly as much as $200!

-- click any image for larger version --

dream-01   Dream-11   Dream-12   Dream-17

Daniel Bouzard (Franconville, France) Lith print/split sepia gold-toned gelatin-silver


C   C   C   C

Christopher James (Dublin, NH) Piezographic prints / carbon ink on rag


img457   img454   img455   img456

Robert Owen (Minneapolis, MN) Gelatin silver prints


dave   1401_9   dave   dave

David Burnett (Arlington, VA) Gelatin silver prints


craig   craig   craig   cxraig

Craig Sterling (Washington, DC) Digital pigment prints


boeckeler   boeckeler   boeckeler   boeckeler

John Boeckeler (Hope, ME) Selenium toned gelatin silver prints


* The Pinhole Camera Artists:

The "pinholer" is a different sort of animal from the plastic camera user. They are, I have observed, really more akin to a traditional view camera photographer. They do, however, share with the plastic-camera user a desire for simplicity and towards keeping the tools at their most "elemental."

The pinhole camera is usually used on a tripod (the Diana doesn't even have the ability to mount to one!) and the exposures are seconds in length - if not minutes. Like a view camera, this fact necessitates a more deliberate and "studied" approach to image-making. Many pinholers use laser-drilled pinholes for greater accuracy of measurement. And, while it is not necessary for good results, many pinholers are quite exact in their mathematics: figuring out the relationship between the pinhole's size, its distance to the film, and thus its corresponding focal length. It's interesting to note the images from these "lens-less" cameras often have sharper detail than the plastic camera can deliver….

stein_4z   harvey   stein   stein_2z

Harvey Stein (New York City, NY) Gelatin silver prints


Crump_BENT   Crump_PH   Crump_PH   PH

Walter "Rusty Crump (South Boston, MA) Unique Bleached & Toned S.G. Print


D   D   D   D

Douglas Lucak (Cleveland, OH) Toned gelatin silver prints


KempMowMyLawn   RideMyBike2   KempJaneAlwaysDreadedFlyingHome   KempLivingRoom24Hours

Gregg Kemp (Cary, NC) Lightjet prints


WrightUMMA   WrightUMMA   WrightUMMA   WrightUMMA

Willie Anne Wright (Richmond, VA) Toned gelatin silver prints



Anne-Claude Cotty (Stonington, ME) Artist books on silver broaches


* Other noteworthy artists whose work we also considered:
(or, there's only so much wall space….)

Mark   Mark   Mark   Mark

Mark Dungan (Salem, OR) photogravure prints from a pinhole camera


Sink_Faces_MerelBricks   Sink_Faces_Clemente   Sink_Faces_DianaGoesParty   Sink_Faces_GraceJones

Mark Sink (Celebrity Portraits) (Denver, CO) gelatin silver prints from a Diana camera


VickiTopaz001   VickiTopaz002   VickiTopaz003   VickiTopaz004

Vicki Topaz (San Francisco, CA)  toned gelatin silver prints from a Diana camera


AAMc1A   AAMc3   AAMc4   AAMc5

Anne Arden McDonald (Brooklyn, NY) Gelatin silver photographs


The Galleries