The Invented Camera.

Photographs by Jo Babcock. Text by Bill Berkson, Douglas R. Nickel, and Jo Babcock. Edited by Kitty Costello.
Freedom Voices, San Francisco, 2005. 96 pp., 82 four-color illustrations, 6¼x8¼".

The history of photography is filled with an overabundance of kooks and oddballs, “characters” as my mother would say. Now, I haven’t met Jo Babcock, but my guess is that he’s a certified loon, and if he’s got a girlfriend or a wife, then either she is too, or she’s a long-suffering woman worthy of an epic poem devoted to her. Imagine living with someone who has made cameras out of everything—and I do mean everything— except the kitchen sink (though I haven’t actually confirmed that he hasn’t made a pinhole camera out of a sink). The amount of tinkering and taping, scheming, patching, cutting and outright inventing that must happen in his basement shop (indubitably under the light of a sole, bare bulb hanging from its wire in the middle of the room) would be enough to drive any partner nuts. “What’d you do today, honey?” “Oh, I made a camera out of my friend’s Airstream and then we drove to Monument Valley to make a picture.” The Invented Camera presents the results of his efforts over the past two decades. The book is a straightforward presentation of the camera, on the lefthand page, and an image made by that camera, on the right. Mailboxes, Band-Aid tins, a guitar case, a can of Shinola shoe polish, cigar boxes and even an Ansel Adams coffee can have all been turned into pinhole cameras with delightful results. DARIUS HIMES

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