Compact, simple to use, and unexpectedly trendy, disposable cameras could just be the tool you need to get yourself out of a creative slump. It can be liberating and refreshing to leave all the technicalities behind and do a personal project with something as simple and basic as this tool. Why would you even want to shoot with something as “obsolete” as a disposable camera? Why would you sacrifice all the megapickles? The reasons tend to vary from photographer to photographer but everyone agrees that eliminating the technicalities and the “untouched” quality of the photos make for a refreshing shooting experience. Sure, some of you may argue that the smartphone and Instagram are already as “disposable” as snapshots can get. But there’s also something about shooting with the medium that started it all, don’t you think?
It’s certainly not a medium for everyone (I know, it comes with the risk of someone screaming “hipster!” at you), but there’s nothing to lose if you give it a try, say, for times when you need to experiment and get extra creative. For those who are new to disposable cameras and are wondering what they can make out of it, here are some inspiring examples.
I first encountered Indisposable Concept four years ago when it was still an emerging project by Stuart Chapman. The concept is simple: capture your days on film with a disposable camera, whether it’s your vacation, a fun day out with friends, or just a slice of your life. The project, it says in their statement, is “all about eliminating the technicalities and proficiencies of photography and providing a level playing field for everyone to contribute.” With the film camera, everyone can participate in the project regardless of their skill level. Since then, the Indisposable Concept has evolved to include contributions not just from disposable cameras, but all types of film cameras. While this move was mostly inspired by doing away with the negative impact of one-time use plastics, it also since made the project more inclusive and all-embracing of film photography in general.
MyLondon Photo Project
Since 2013, social enterprise Café Art has been giving away 100 Fujifilm Quicksnap one-time-use cameras to people who have experienced homelessness (now changed to any vulnerable person who is in danger of homelessness) for the annual MyLondon Photo Project. Participants gathered and contacted through organizations in the homelessness sector grab the disposable cameras at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Wren Suite. They have five days to take photos around London and return the camera to the same location for developing and printing. Aside from an exhibit, the photos from the project are also featured on the MyLondon calendar funded through Kickstarter.
This project shows us that even the humble and inexpensive disposable camera proves powerful in documenting social issues and encouraging community involvement. At its core, MyLondon Photo Project is all about placing focus to homelessness by empowering the participants with the simple act of taking photos. Because of its simplicity, people aren’t intimidated to use it — or be photographed through it.
What happens when you send disposable cameras to your favorite photographers and let them shoot whatever catches their eyes? Most certainly, you end up with a collection of really cool snaps that you’d want to put together in a book or even an exhibit. That’s exactly what Matt Titone of surf lifestyle publication Indoek and LA-based creative agency ITAL/C ended up with when he sent 27 disposable cameras to some of his favorite artists. The result was 27 Frames, which culminated in an exhibit that opened at downtown LA’s Think Tank Gallery. Among those who contributed to the project was globetrotting commercial and sports photographer Chris Burkard, who is also known for his stunning surf photography. Interestingly, he chose to shoot some “in-between moments” in Iceland, Yosemite, and local spots with his disposable camera.
The London Skate Journal
Similar to 27 Frames is The London Skate Journal, a community project spearheaded by Craig Jackson and Jonny Grant a few years back. The goal, Jackson told Huck magazine, was to encourage skaters from London and other cities to pick up a disposable camera and show “what its actually like to be a skateboarder in 2016.” While this project is no longer active (I really hope they pick it up again) and only ran for a few months in 2016, the photos are still up on their blog for us to check out and be inspired with. Authenticity, rawness, and community are the keywords for this project, with the snapshot at the heart of communicating what the skateboarding lifestyle should really be about.
“Found” Disposable Cameras
Among the most popular formats of disposable camera projects is the “found” camera, where organizers hide these cameras for everyone to find and shoot with. The 2011 New York Shots project by Katie O’ Beirne, wherein she left disposable cameras attached to park benches, was among the most successful, and was even expanded into an art show in March 2012 thanks to Kickstarter funding.
Then, there’s also The Disposable Memory Project, which left disposable cameras in public places around the world beginning in 2008. With each camera came a message inviting people to pick it up, shoot with it, and pass it on. Over 500 cameras released, 75 countries traveled, and more than 500,000 miles later, however, only 33 cameras made it back. The project has been closed since 2013, but the organizers kept collecting cameras and uploading photos until 2014. All the photos are still here.
There’s a lot more you can find out there that can potentially inspire you, especially on Instagram — which I find ironic, since the social media platform has kind of become the digital counterpart of the disposable camera.
Not quite sure which disposable camera to get? I find that they’re essentially similar, with the main difference being you can choose between color and black and white film. But if you really want to get into the nitty gritty details, The Darkroom has reviewed a bunch of the ones that you will most likely still find out there.