"Take a Picture": Installing Disposable Cameras for Collaborative Street Photography


Montreal-based street photographer Max Hart Barnwell has long been in love with film. With his patience and eye for beauty, Max took analogue street photography to a whole new level with his on-going social project, "Take a Picture". The series includes installing cameras in accessible public places, and let curious passersby take photographs of themselves.

Photos courtesy of Max Hart Barnwell

The project first came to life when Max came up with the idea during a university class in 2016. His professor Velibor Bozovic was teaching about "The Other Life of the Photograph", and thus sparked ideas about the purpose of photography and the medium. Wanting to keep the essence of "people" in street photography, it was from there Max thought, "Why not give the camera to the streets?"

Photos courtesy of Max Hart Barnwell

For affordability and convenience, Max opted to use disposable film cameras.

"For now I have been using Fujifilm’s QuickSnap disposable camera, which can be found in most general drugstores. Although I have tried with Kodak Fun Savers, the colder greener tone of Fuji Superia film renders the image quality I was looking for. Moreover, I am very open and tempted into trying out the Lomo Simple Use Cameras, which I think could potentially be a great addition to the project given that I could reuse them avoiding the waste of disposables while also explore different films." said Max to Lomography Magazine.

To install the disposable cameras, he thought hanging them onto tree branches and infrastructure, just around 3 to 4 feet from the ground, high enough for people to take notice. The first time he did this was in his Montreal-neighborhood, Mile-End. Max would leave the cameras for 12 to 24 hours before collecting and processing them. The results and themes Max was searching for came naturally, and the most prized achievement was the great sense of shared humanity, collectiveness, and joy.

Mosaic and sample of an installed disposable camera. Photos courtesy of Max Hart Barnwell
"To my surprise, people often had the instinct to turn the camera towards themselves revealing their identity and taking a picture that could potentially be labeled as a selfie, but a much more genuine one. A self-portrait that is unfiltered nor edited and free from instantaneous judgment. The results are candid and raw displaying beauty within diversity. Others decide to turn the camera to whatever is happening around and snap a beautiful detail."

He managed to collect 270 photographs and turned them into a mosaic. He also did the same thing in Toronto, the second edition of "Take a Picture", this time with some help from the organizers of The Artist Project. He managed to gather around 500 photographs.

Photos courtesy of Max Hart Barnwell

"This experience has allowed me to discover the city of Toronto and its various neighborhoods like never before. Choosing specific locations for different reasons, the project also becomes a diary of where I was and the places I have explored." said Max. The whole second edition may be viewed in the "Take A Picture 2018" Instagram account @takeapicture2018.

The future for "Take a Picture" project's ambition to make photography accessible to all people remains bright and analogue with the only potential roadblock to continuing the series would be the material cost.

Visit Max's website for more of his work.


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