How-To: Build and Use an Afghan Box Camera

Craft & Design Photography & Video
How-To: Build and Use an Afghan Box Camera

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!]

8 thoughts on “How-To: Build and Use an Afghan Box Camera

  1. R D Fair Photography says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  2. John K says:

    Amazing, I’m building one of these now.

  3. stuckintampaTony Wilhoit says:

    The title says “How-To: Build and Use an Afghan Box Camera” but I don’t see the instructions. Am I missing something? Is there a link somewhere I’m suppose to know about to open something to show the details? I’m new on MAKE and need all the help I can get. ☼ Thank you! ♫

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Hello! Sorry for the confusion. The How-To content in this case is not hosted on our site, but on Mr. Birk’s. Here’s a link you can follow to see it:

      This link is included in the above text, from the words “a detailed manual.” We are contemplating a change in our link styling to make it clearer where to find resources in this case. Thanks for reading.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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