Every subject I paint has a built-in history. This Kodak Petite camera was made from 1929–1933, precisely during The Great Depression. The little pocket camera is sitting upon a stack of paperbacks from the same time and leading up to WWII. I always find myself thinking of the people who used these objects and what their world was like. Perhaps they were not so different from us.
This painting will be part of my upcoming September exhibition at the George Billis Gallery in New York City.
This will sound sentimental, but who cares. I like the thought of how exciting these cameras would have been to a kid who received it as a gift. Back when photography took time, it would have seemed magic. I like the thought that these lenses were the eyes on so many events.
And then there is the fact I can present these objects in such an orderly way. The four cameras are all 3/4 turned, facing to the right. These black cubes, such simple shapes, with the circular flash from the unique Spartus camera. The stack of ten cameras makes a small architectural structure, each with a different facade. The box cameras with their shining brass art deco designs, the different materials used. Composing the cameras this way adds a structure and order.
The materials, their designs, the history and story, their utility as image making tools, cameras are deserving of a portrait.
Kodak, Bencini, Leica, Yashica. USA, Italy, Germany, Japan.
Learning about these cameras is like a 20th century world history lesson. The makers of these cameras have all been affected by world events, the economy and changing technology. Even though they are obsolete, they still have avid collectors and enthusiasts.
With the Kodaks painting above, I composed an arch with the lenses and flashes, giving the painting an architectural feel.
We have had PHD (Push Here, Dummy) cameras in our pockets for a hundred years, but it’s the ones that look like they were pieced together by watchmakers that are fun to paint.
I like that they were all used to make art, to document holidays, travel, weddings and so many other happy events. What’s strange is that the photos from the cameras are all missing, lost or hidden. It really makes me wonder what will happen to the billions of photos we upload from the cameras on our phones now.
These elegant and finely detailed antique Kodak cameras are works of art on their own. They have a patina about them. Cameras are now and always have been ubiquitous – but some were made to stand out. These cameras have lost their function, but now exist as sculpture and ideals of craftsmanship.