Jo Babcock Makes Pinhole Cameras with a Band-Aid Tin, Lucky Strike Pack and Mailbox (Pics)

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Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Tucked beneath a veil of vines at the quaint Duncan Miller Gallery, photographer Jo Babcock's 22-piece first ever solo exhibition is more than just your average picture show. Under the framed photographs neatly hanging across the cream colored walls lie typewriters, ancient coffee machines, a letter box and even a retro tin of MSG all of which are the cameras responsible for the taking the photo they're coupled up with. Using low tech pinhole photography, Babcock has given a new perspective not only to cameras, but the photos they produce, giving insight to their real world doppelgangers and exploring the relationship between the object viewing the subject, according to curator Daniel Miller.

Pure Maple Syrup - The Log Cabin Bar, 1988

  • Photo courtesy of Duncan Miller Gallery
Babcock, a St. Louis native whose work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at the Sao Paulo Bienal in Brazil has been making pinhole cameras from containers and photographing a view of the world according to the particular object for more than 20 years. This low-tech photography technique usually takes Babcock a week to perfect each pinhole camera and one-of-a-kind print, employing a light-tight area with a dark interior and a tiny hole in the center of one end, which projects an inverted image onto film fastened on the opposite side of box. Why make cameras out of objects? "I assemble photographic instruments from old parts, pinholes and discarded contains as topical commentary on consumer culture," writes Jo Babcock in his book The Invented Camera: Low Tech Photography & Sculpture.

Auto fuses, Lucky Strike Cigarettes, Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids, Colirio Ocusan eye drops and Shinola shoe polish with their respective productions

click to enlarge LIANA AGHAJANIAN
  • Liana Aghajanian
"It's such a special and unusual exhibition," says curator and gallery owner Miller. "We've never run anything like this before, it's more of a museum initiative than more of a gallery initiative."

While pinhole cameras can be constructed from any tight-lid object, Babcock's own carefully thought out curation of cans and tins that evoke flashes of yesteryear add on an entirely new conceptual element to the show.

Band-Aid - Self Portrait, 1989

click to enlarge LIANA AGHAJANIAN
  • Liana Aghajanian

click to enlarge LIANA AGHAJANIAN
  • Liana Aghajanian
While the show's reception drew 130 people and even sold a few pieces (priced from $2500 to $8500), stitching together a photography exhibit that included more than just prints did have its challenges, with Miller taking a year to think the show through before bringing it to life. A good portion of the pinhole cameras are small in size, but bigger pieces like a vintage Bell & Howell Projector Case that accompanies a photo of the Roxie Theater in San Francisco and a 1962 survival supply can of drinking water issued by the Department of Defense in 1962 are also included.Babcock has also made cameras out of a Volkswagen van and an RV

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