Camera artistry by David Lo
David recently got in touch with me about some drawings that he has been working on, and I am really glad that he did. Because now I get to share with you this unique and beautiful work. Incredible drawings of fantasy cameras and camera hacking.
First of all, welcome to JCH, please tell us about yourself
I’m a street photographer based in New York and I have a background in Engineering. My street work is primarily of Manhattan’s Chinatown where I’ve lived all my life. When I’m not shooting, I design fantasy cameras, most of which can actually be built. My background is also in poetry. Writing and design seem to go hand in hand. I’m in the process of putting together a book of camera drawings and studies based on various themes.
What inspired you to re-design cameras?
My dream has always been to use classic cameras. Originally I was working on some broken cameras, modifying them to shoot digitally. After I had done quite a few of these, and shot with them on the street, I started to have ideas of cameras I wanted to modify but couldn’t find or just didn’t have the time to do. Then I began to create drawings of camera designs.
The most fun I have had was doing designs for variations on the humble Sunpet 826, a simple Diana-like camera. These free variations on a single theme already affect the consciousness of photographers who venture to ruminate on their simple structure and who read my writings. My drawings work like an architectural sketch that is intended to convey the experience of their subject through studies into their architecture, studies into form, feeling and function.
One thing has led to another. My drawings have three functions: to persuade the viewer to reflect upon the camera as a structure, to see the form and function of the camera in a new ways, and by the insight of the design, whether visually or in its intention (by way of the presentational text) to affect the way that street photographers take pictures— as any architectural project worth its salt should have a social function.
I understand that you have also modified a few cameras, can you tell us about that?
My desire was to shoot with classic cameras, most of which cannot be used anymore. However, I believe a camera performs best when it’s used often. I learned how to modify them to accept a digital back and I took the modified classics to the streets. Each camera is different with its own problems regarding modification. Some of my cameras can still be switched back to “film” mode as this sort of modification doesn’t damage it in anyway (although some are permanently altered). I have a 1908 Vest Pocket Autographic owned by a World War One soldier who kept it in fine working condition. I was particularly gratified to put a few hundred digital exposures through it after it sat unused for 100 years. It can still shoot with film.
Do you have a favourite camera that you own or draw?
Yes, it’s my Polaroid Swinger Model 20 (ca. 1965-70), a beast of a camera and I was able to actually construct the modifications. It exists both physically as well as on paper in my drawings and notes. It is immensely fun to shoot with. I’ve outfitted the camera to house a tiny exhibition gallery, it can display 6 photographs and one slide projection at any one time, all without affecting its performance as a digital street camera. As a mobile gallery inside of a camera, it can be viewed by the public anywhere. Please visit it online or in person.
If you could make one of your designs which one would it be?
Every time I create a camera drawing, naturally I feel that I want to make it. But I think I’d enjoy making a camera that is from my series devoted to Weegee. It has a lighted bar inside.
Thank you very much Bellamy for this feature. Let’s have a virtual drink together one day when my bar is opened!
Thanks to David for sharing his wonderful designs with us. I love the development of the ideas that you can see running through the pictures. Wonderful stuff. David has a bag shot coming up soon too. A very interesting one.
Please remember that the images are reproduced with the kind permission of David Lo and may not be used or reproduced without permission.