Instamatic

The first camera that I ever operated and used to successfully take a picture was an old forgotten Kodak Instamatic that I found buried in a closet in my childhood home. It used a 110 film cartridge and flashcubes. The later were used sparingly in my family and it was great fun (and a privilege) to take a picture using one. They would make a popping sound and the flash would blacken, signaling that it was spent and couldn’t be used again. This didn’t prevent us from trying.

The Instamatic 110 format was for consumers and was truly horrible. It had an image area of 13mm x 17mm (incidentally the same size as micro 4/3 sensors). Even then, not knowing anything about photography, I realized that the quality was horrible. But this didn’t prevent me from enjoying the process of taking and looking at the pictures I made with it. Even stripped to its bare minimum, photography is still a miraculous process.

In John Szarkowski’s landmark Mirrors and Windows exhibit at MOMA he categorized photographs into “a mirror—a romantic expression of the photographer’s sensibility as it projects itself on the things and sights of this world; or as a window—through which the exterior world is explored in all its presence and reality.”

This has been a rather sturdy definition that still proves to be insightful, and useful, decades later. A few swipes through Instagram will reveal that many photographers still tend to fall into one or the other camp.

Of course there are always exceptions. One which I find interesting is in vernacular photography - or in the appropriation of it. Essentially, photography is used as a window, in a very naive, unsophisticated and mechanical way with the result appearing as if it were intended as a mirror of society. The thrill of this tactic is that an image made thoughtlessly will appear full of hidden meaning, and the more unsophisticated it is the more stylized it appears. This paradox fuels much of contemporary photography.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and so for most of us, even photographers, that is our mobile phones. Available to make a shot in an instant. A true Instamatic. 

The images in this series were made with an iPhone as pure snapshots without much thought and no intention of publication. After looking at them I realized that together they seemed to relate to one another and create a storyline. This is also the magic of photography.


Using Format