welcome to the family

Quite by chance, I came across an unusual toy camera that I had never heard of before. It was designed as a novelty camera - presumably before Photoshop was widespread - that allowed you to divide the frame in two horizontally so that two images merge into one, overlapping slightly in the middle. The reason I believe it was a pre-digital novelty item is because according to the packaging, the highlight of this camera is its ability to put a dog's head onto a person's body - something incredibly simple to do on a computer, and something that very few people would buy a cheap film camera just to do.

At the risk of disappointing you, I have to confess that I did not buy this camera to create strange canine-human hybrids. Rather, I was intrigued by the idea of merging two images without overlapping them completely; unlike a standard multiple exposure, this camera allows you to keep the top and the bottom as a single image, with only the middle combined. In some ways this makes it more interesting than a straightforward multiple exposure, because it takes a while to figure out what's going on: the top and the bottom look normal, but there is definitely something strange happening.

Admittedly, this is something that could also be done quite easily in Photoshop. So why use a dodgy old film camera? Well, a few reasons. Firstly, there's no way that I would sit down at my computer and put some street lamps over a Hungry Jack's neon sign. I wouldn't think to do it, and I wouldn't waste my energy on something that isn't very spectacular. But out on the street, when you can't see the results and you are figuratively (and sometimes literally) in the dark, you have to shoot on instinct, and spontaneously. All the 'work' is done in that moment, and it's exciting not knowing what the hell it's going to look like. And sure, the image above isn't great, but it's still interesting, and it's a reflection of what I saw at that time. It allows no time for post-production perfectionism or self-doubt. This is one of the greatest things about dodgy, experimental plastic cameras, especially for someone who is prone to perfectionism (e.g. me).

I would never take the time to digitally construct these two images. I like to shoot in the moment! And doing so early one winter morning has given me two pretty successful representations of one of my favourite CBD photographic locations, Bourke Street Mall. The second one is particularly impressive to me, because the transition between images is pretty seamless, making the oversized tram timetable really unnerving above the small seated woman. The image at the top of this post is another Bourke Street success - I particularly like that the GPO tower is pointing right at the rays of sun in the top image.

Seeing as these images are all from my first test roll, I'm pretty pleased with the results. Not because I think they are all wonderful, but because they reveal some of the effects this camera is capable of, and the potential for creating an entirely new array of unusual, layered film images with absolutely no Photoshop necessary. Thank goodness.

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