Studio Proof: "The Great Camera Build-Off" shows you can make a camera out of anything

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

EASE Gallery’s current exhibit, “The Great Camera Build-Off,” showcases the ingenuity of Ohio State students who participated in the fall course Alternative Camera Systems led by instructor Steven Takacs. The students were tasked with creating a camera using obsolete equipment, and the exhibit features both the cameras themselves and the photographs taken using these homemade cameras.

The result is quite impressive. The creativity in designing the camera is the star of the exhibit, but the images captured are also wonderfully rendered. Materials such as straws, old wooden whiskey containers, cardboard boxes, recycled wood and more were merged with camera equipment.

Look, I’m not a photographer and have minimal knowledge on the medium and its techniques thanks to a couple courses I took in college, but I understand the basic science behind it. Examining these cameras and the images they created left me utterly dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe the myriad ways these students built their equipment and then executed wonderfully captivating images.

Take Sam Lustig’s straw cameras, one of which incorporates more than 6,000 plastic straws. As Lustig’s artist statements says, “These straws act to filter the light from the subject behind them, creating a pixelated image.”

Lustig’s resulting images (pictured) capture the viewer’s attention immediately — as they contain recognizable forms, only slightly distorted by the straws — and send the mind racing on how this was executed.

Other students had similarly inventive and distinct approaches to this project as well. Emily Lebsock’s “Distorted Reality Triptych” is the result of turning an old enlarger into a wearable backpack camera to create nearly unrecognizable, yet engaging portraits.

Rachael Barbash’s “Five Years” series took a telephoto lens and deconstructed it, leaving only the aperture apparatus. She then installed that into a wooden whiskey box and used tissue paper to focus the images. Finally Barbash distorted the images digitally with lyrics from David Bowie’s “Five Years.” The images are buoyed by vibrant colors encircled in black forms.

“The Great Camera Build-Off” is open through Feb. 7, and EASE Gallery (30 W. Woodruff Ave.) is open Friday (2-6 p.m.) and Saturday (12-6 p.m.).