The Online Darkroom Store

Saturday, January 11

The 10x8 IKEA Camera

the online darkroom, 10x8, 5x4, darkroom, analogue photography, analog photography, film photography diy, ikea, silver gelatin

If you're an analogue photographer and you don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling from this story then you've got a printed circuit where you should have a smoothly-running Leica shutter (Does that even make sense? - ED). Here's a bunch of Leeds Metropolitan University students who were tasked, as part of their course, with building a 10x8 camera out of things readily available at Ikea, such as shelving. OK, they were given an ancient, shutterless brass process lens and 10x8 and 5x4 spring backs by Deardorff to get them started but still…

The fixed focus camera they ended up with produced the prints the students are holding in the photograph above and I think they look great! The wonderful thing about this project is that it has helped demystify film photography for these young artists.

German exchange student, Natalie Litzl, said, "I really enjoyed the project because it clearly showed that even though analogue photography sometimes, especially for beginners, sounds extremely complex it is actually not that hard to do.

"I mean, building a camera like we did could have been done by students a lot younger than we are and as long as your box is light tight it will work. The creative process from buying the shelf at IKEA to developing the final image in the darkroom was really interesting.

"I did not expect such crisp and detailed images by this kind of improvised camera. The understanding of analogue techniques and the kind of work that is put into just one good photo is something that I will definitely relate to when photographing digitally. You start to think more about the picture you are about to take instead of just wildly pressing the trigger. The project was definitely one of the highlights of my exchange semester at Leeds Met."

For those of us who were brought up on film cameras, the idea that analogue photography and darkroom work might seem "extremely complex" may well come as a bit of a shock. But it's all about what you're used to. I remember after shooting for years on old Rolleiflexes, a Mamiya Press and a Nikon EL2 I couldn't even figure out how to switch on a Nikon F801s in Jessops. And I'm not joking.

And did you notice that other great quote from Natalie, "You start to think more about the picture you are about to take instead of just wildly pressing the trigger." That's another excellent lesson learned by the second year BSc (Hons) photojournalism students. I've written about that sort of thing myself here.

Kudos have to go to course leader Sarah Cooper, tutor Peter Defty and Harman/Ilford who supported the project. Sarah said, "The students not only engaged with old technology in terms of the materials, but they were briefed to build their own equipment too.

"Armed with hammers and gaffer tape, the groups produced a range of solid Swedish cameras, and were stunned by the results of using such large traditional film, with the final prints making the students rightly proud of their achievements.”

After shooting the images on Ilford FP4 Plus 10x8" film, the final 60 x 80cm prints were made on HARMAN by Hahnemühle Gloss Baryta inkjet paper supplied by HARMAN technology Ltd. Sadly, the students appear to have had no access to a 10x8 enlarger otherwise they would have been doubly proud of following the whole process through to its logical conclusion. Still, the Harman paper is supposed to have a similar finish to a classic glossy, fibre-based print so the end result will be quite convincing.

My message to the students would be to build on this experience instead of treating it as an interesting one-off. By all means shoot digital but pick up a film camera or two and keep learning. And get into the darkroom!

You might also like:

5x4 DIY Project Part One
5x4 DIY Project Part Two


Richard G said...

Wonderful story. And I enjoyed the linked piece on visualization.

Paul Glover said...

With 10x8 I'd have gone down the path of making contact prints for an exercise like this one. But those prints do look fantastic!

It's great to see this happening and the process of shooting film being demystified for people who might never have encountered it at all.

Michael Adamat said...

Thats a great story. Are there images of the cameras available somewhere?

Tim Fitzwater said...

Yes, I'd like to see what the camera looks like.

marty said...

It's good to see interest and enthusiasm in traditional photography among young people and also that still are teachers that believe into the importance of traditional technique and craftsmanship.

Cheers, M.