plastic cameras book review by michael maersch

Some books excel at providing well written, accurate information about a given subject. If one is lucky the author has a real knack for turning the word and writing engaging prose; they are able to draw the reader into the story they tell and keep their attention rapt. (This is incredibly rare when one is talking about a How-To book, a tech-related book, an instructional guide.) And some authors provide their readers inspiration by way of beautifully reproduced photographs or illustrations. Michelle Bates has hit the Trifecta with her Focal Press offering, “Plastic Cameras – Toying With Creativity” (Second Edition).

“Gee, how’d she do that?!”

Well, for one Michelle has been experimenting with Holga-brand and other plastic cameras since the early ’90’s. (That be the last century folks; though she’s still a young gal.) She knows her stuff.

Also because of her fascination and excitement in working with plastic cameras and her eagerness in sharing with others the delight she finds within her own work and that of other serious enthusiasts, she ends up presenting an easy-to-follow guide on all that’s available to each of us to work with inside this cool little book.

Ms. Bates explains how best to prep these “toy” cameras for work, film & processing tips, a brief history of these non-“pro” imaging devices, suggestions on how to bring work shot on film into the world of digital imaging and printmaking, TONS of resources AND she introduces readers to the work of dozens of additional practitioners all who can truly refer to their work as Art (with a capital “A”). These are not your typical photoshopographers whose websites present excessively saturated photographs overcooked with an extensive palette of “one-touch” plugin filters then dignified within galleries labeled as “Fine Art”.

The folks Michelle introduces us to are serious picture makers who spend their time thinking about the world they interact with and then invest countless hours experimenting with process and implementation. The only thing “one touch” about their work is pushing the button to make that initial – sometimes multiple – exposure(s).

If you tire of making photographs that consistently miss the “Joy” button then read this book. Set aside that multiple-thousands-of-dollars digital camera for a spell, order a plastic camera online and find out what it’s like to celebrate Christmas in July!

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