Alexandr Komarov, the Great Pinhole Camera Comeback and Artists Redefining Mass Photography

You might have heard of Alex Komarov, a photographer who not only takes photos but also collects and documents Russian and Soviet era cameras, some of which in the times of the cold war were used as spy cameras. See his site fotoua.com. These cameras were long since declassified as tools for covert activities by the Russian authorities. However unknown to Alex, there are legacy laws in the Ukraine that made ownership of these now vintage film cameras an offense.

Alexandr Komarov, world's probably first photographer charged for owning vintage cameras.
Alexandr Komarov, world’s probably first photographer charged for owning vintage cameras.
Technology has moved on but the laws against ownership have never been repealled in his native Ukraine. As a result Alex has been charged and goes to court for owning cameras once used in espionage activities. Alex could end up in prison for having an interest in cameras! One of the cameras that has caused Alex this grief is the Ajax 12 KGB spy camera, also known as an F-21 camera, which as it happens is now being sold by the good people from Lomography as the virtually identical Zenit MF-1.

Why we should care about Alexandr Komarov? His site is a very good source of info on Russian and Soviet era cameras and his fate just shows in what terrible state the Ukraine is in. As photographers we need to help our fellow photographers when crazy things like this happen. Please sign the change.org petition for Alexandr Komarov.

On a much lighter note, you can do a lot with a cardboard box. Make a fort. Make a Halloween costume. Or how about turning it into a camera? Designer Kelly Angood did just that, and ended up creating a pinhole camera that has taken off thanks to a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign that went viral.

With us becoming digitally native, the Videre medium format pinhole camera is all about experimenting and playing with the magic of film:

Last but not least, an interesting article by the Wall Street Journal on How Our Camera Phone Nation Is Inspiring Artists. Basic idea of the story is that with 4,000 photos snapped every second in the U.S., more than four times as many as 10 years ago, photography has morphed into a second language, a form of note-taking, an addictive habit from cradle to grave.

People are taking photographs without any kind of artistic intent, and you get a fantastic index of how people are thinking. It’s like an unintentional mirror. Now that everyone is a photographer, artists are redefining what photography is — and they are finding inspiration in the multitudes of people obsessed with shooting everything.

Says Mia Fineman, associate photography curator at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The practice of taking pictures with a camera phone is so much more widespread than any other form of image making in the history of humankind. That’s why this is such a crucial time for photography.

Artists around the world are intrigued by the photo-sharing revolution. They make some creative use with some of the 1.6 trillion photos taken annually with smartphones and other cameras, compared with roughly 100 billion photos a year in 2000. In the U.S. alone, about 125 billion photos were taken this year. If all those shots were turned into 4×6 prints and laid out end to end, they would stretch to the moon and back 25 times.

So why not make some creative use of this redundancy in photography.




  • Passageways

    AKs site looks interesting just wish it was more easy to navigate.

    I saw a Lomo version of the Zenit for $800.00, not very “alternative”-like.

    There is an excellent pinhole camera with some models under a hundred dollars: “zero image”. Of course making your own is easy enough.

    “4,000 photos snapped every second in the U.S. – photography has morphed into a second language”

    I disagree, unless we consider a move toward baby-talk and extremely limited but repetitive vocabulary a “new language”. Of course in a world where people will as easily say to someone “I love you” as “I love KFC” the understanding and significance of words have deteriorated and become almost as meaningless as the 4,000 a second images.

    Digital is the ultimate disposable camera. You can theoretically stretch the images to Mars and back or even one day the next galaxy, but that counts for nothing when most images appear on a screen and disappear as quickly as bored lovers.

  • The magic word would be “deceleration.” Decelerate, and rediscover lost values while enjoying new ones…