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My old pal, Bay Area shutterbug Billy Baque, has a passion for the handmade, low-tech, all-in-one cameras-plus-darkrooms used by street photographers around the world.  The so-called Cuban Polaroid is a typical example—a wooden box with a light-tight sleeve for the photographer’s arm at one end and a lens on the other. Billy describes the typical use:

Using photographic printing paper the photographer would expose a sheet of paper for the negative, develop, stop, and fix it inside the camera, then put a copy stand on the camera and photograph the negative (to obtain a positive), develop, stop, and fix, then wash the final print in a coffee can of water attached to his homemade tripod.

Billy just hipped me to Lukas Birk’s Afghan Box Camera Project, an ethnographic study documenting the rapidly-vanishing traditions, technologies, and skills of street photographers in  Kabul.  The Afghan version of the Cuban Polaroid is known as the kamra-e-faoree, and Mr. Birk has gone to considerable lengths to document its traditional construction and use, preparing a detailed build guide and an on-site video minutely recording lifelong Kabuli street photographer Qalam Nabi, in action, with his. [Thanks, Billy!]

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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