The camera as a truth teller

For a few decades now I have made photographs that are a reflection of what is in front of the camera. That’s how a camera works, it isn’t really something revolutionary.. light gets directed onto something that records it, and then sometimes chemicals are used to convert that reflection into a negative or positive. I said “sometimes” because it’s possible to make light drawings without the chemicals that turn the thing inside a camera into negatives or positives. Some of the earliest photographs were made with a big box camera and light sensitive paper that couldn’t be stabilized. The paper wasn’t very sensitive to light and it took a long time unlike digital cameras and film cameras that have shutters that can flicker at 1,000th of a second and record an image. I’ve sometimes made long exposed paper negatives using modern photo paper and film and recorded images. Most of the time what is in front of the camera appears on the film or paper.

What happens though when the camera is pointed at something, like a fence post or deck railing or potted plant and something else is recorded on the paper. It would be like if someone made a portrait of you and instead of you appearing in the portrait a house or tree or something inexplainable appeared in the photograph.

I’ve mostly had this happen when I was photographing a small peninsula near me. I’d photograph the trees and a seascape appeared in the images, or I photographed myself and I never appeared in the image as if I didn’t exist. It happened again yesterday. I pointed the camera at the table outside to do a few exposure tests for peroxide reversals and like magic when I scanned the paper, something else appeared.

Clump of bamboo

Author: jnanian

i am a freelance photographer in rhode island, usa. i use a variety of cameras ( film and digital ) and even shoot hand coated paper negatives and glass plates. i use caffenol developers... roast my own instead of using instant coffee and i sell silver recovery units. ( silver magnets ).