Since my visit to Dimbola I’ve been thinking it’s time I got a bit more hands-on with the whole notion of early photography, or any kind of pre-digital developing and printing. I mean I once knew a novelist whose research involved learning to fly, a bit of dark room photography can’t be so hard!
Luckily the Bristol Festival of Photography has just got under way, with opportunities to see the wet collodion method and other ‘old-school’ techniques being used by contemporary artists. But the one event that really caught my eye mentioned Fox Talbot, the inventor of the first photograph (or calotype) as used by my own hero, and a camera that wasn’t too far from the kind of thing these Victorian pioneers would have used.
So that’s how I found myself last week at Paintworks in Bristol where the Milestones Trust had an exhibition called Drop Stitch Drive (yes, knitting!) and where said camera was also on show.
I’m really grateful to Jeff for taking time out from the end of show party (nice grass skirt by the way!) to show me how the camera works. Jeff explained that the kit (basically a light-proof box with baths for developing and fixing built-in) originated in Afghanistan where it is used for street photography, in particular for producing ID photos. I’ve since discovered that the low-tech camera (it has a lens but no shutter, the focus is determined by a sliding pole fixed by a clip) is also known as the Cuban Polaroid.
Now the kamra-e-faoree is threatened by the need for colour , but it’s a great reminder how long the process invented just down the road in Lacock in 1839 has lasted and how far it has travelled with only minor changes to the original process.
You can learn more about the Afghan Camera here.
Meanwhile here is some of the fabulous knitting from Drop Stitch Drive.
Funny where research can take you.
Next week, learning to fly?