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This Book is a Camera (Literally)

Kelli Anderson  is an artist who works in paper. She’s previously developed a pop-up book which turns your smartphone into a planetarium or a speaker. Her other projects include a paper record player, and the illustrations for the NPR story Talking while Female, and now Anderson  is back with a new project – a pop up book that lets you build one of the oldest types of cameras:

This book lets you assemble a pinhole camera. It ships with a set of light-sensitive photo paper and instructions on how you can take a photo and then use chemicals to process each print into a photo (darkroom not included).

As Anderson explains on her blog, a pinhole camera is a type of lenseless camera that relies on physics (rather than complicated tech) to focus light on photo paper:

The convex surface of the lens of a normal camera merges light beams from a varying angles to produce focus at the focal point. A lensless camera accepts light through a single hole in a flat plane (from a single angle.) Because of this, there are no mechanics to “focus” a pinhole camera—it is a projection from a single beam, much like a camera obscura. The result is that objects near the camera and objects far away from the camera have the same exact amount of focus. Take this image of a fence, the Williamsburg bridge, and the Empire State Building—which is fuzzy, but each structure has an equal degree of focus:


While this is old tech, it is also a very crude example of it; each photo needs to be loaded into the camera in a darkroom so that it’s not exposed to light before you’re ready to take a photo.

Nevertheless, this is still a nifty idea; just about the only way I think it could be improved is if it accepted aftermarket Polaroid cartridges. Of course, that would require a more mechanical design with a hand crank, which means it likely couldn’t be collapsed into a folded up book.

So perhaps this isn’t such an imperfect design after all.

You can find the kit on Anderson’s website, where it is back-ordered until February.


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