DIY: Build a Digital Camera


Photographer Mike Golembewski wanted to learn how to build a homemade digital camera, so he took an ordinary flatbed scanner and mated it with a large format camera. The result: the Scanner Photography Project, and you can do it, too. According to Mike's site, "It is possible to make a primitive scanner camera out of almost anything...a roll of gaffer tape, some empty cardboard tubes, and cheap plastic lenses from the pound store..." Over the years, he's made about ten of these cameras, using different combinations of the same basic materials. Again, quoting Mike, "My first scanner camera was made from lots of duct tape, a cardboard box, and the cheapest flatbed scanner that I could find. I expected this to be a quick little art project, one that would take a week or two at the most. But when I got my first homemade digital camera to work, I noticed that some wonderful things were beginning to happen." Because the scanner took anywhere from 15 seconds to five minutes to "take" a picture, any objects that were moving were twisted and distorted into wild and wacky shapes. Keep reading for examples of both the photography and diy scanner-camera materials.

A box camera, like this one, can be found at almost any secondhand shop, and can be used with almost no modification as scanner camera bodies. The scanner needs to be slightly modified (disabling the lamp, removing the array of pinhole lenses and a few other relatively easy hacks) and then mounted to the camera. Since the scanner has been modified, some software programs won't recognize it, so a different driver may be needed for the computer to talk to the scanner; Mike debates the merits of several on his site. Once these three steps have been taken, you're ready to take some amazing pictures.

Some of our favorite pictures from the site are the ones that capture motion through distorted images, like this picture of two buses. While anyone handy enough with photo-manipulation software could pull this off, Mike insures us that his images "haven't been 'Photoshopped' in order to create these effects. All of the motion distortions are created entirely in camera," which is pretty darn cool. He has some images in his gallery that show the effects of much more subtle motion, which gives him almost a cartoonists' ability to manipulate people's faces and bodies.

That's right, these women each have two heads in this shot. While this style of photography isn't terribly practical, we sure like the ingenuity and artistic flexibility it encourages, not to mention the resource recycling and reuse. In an age where Print photography is declining, the scanner-camera hybrid is a way to simultaneously hold on to the past and embrace the present while breaking completely new artistic ground. ::Scanner Photography via ::Boing Boing
[Note: at the time of publication, was down, and the site was up on some different mirror sites with different URL's, which is the reason for the lack of links in the piece. Once the site goes back up, we'll come back and add some to the original site.]