Tell us about yourself first! What made you get into photography?
I’m a photojournalist working in Australia full time. I first got into photography in 2014, later worked in country newspapers before moving to Sydney to work for a newswire as a crime writer and photojournalist.
What is your preferred photography style and subjects to shoot?
I shoot street most days, almost always on film for practice. I see that like training. I love to make photo essays on regional Australia. There’s a calm, patient hostility that comes from too much sun, too much distance and too much solitude in some parts of Australia and that’s what I’m trying to find.
How did you get into building cameras?
I’ve always tinkered with bits and pieces, I loved adapting lenses onto cameras that shouldn’t really go together. I did the same with developing, using Caffenol-C and fixing it with salt water. A lot of that was necessary because there were no camera shops or dark room supplies in my home town.
How did you find Dora Goodman, and what made you decide to take the leap?
I have watched Dora’s cameras for years, the aesthetics of the wood-panelled concept camera that became the zone was exciting. I tried to recreate it at home a long time ago using scrap wood but realised the tolerances would be out of my ability.
When I heard Dora was supplying her 3D printer files I raced down to the shops to buy the cheapest 3D printer I could find. For me, part of the thrill and the requirement of modding cameras is that it has to be possible in a garage using just basic tools, cheap parts and trial and error. I wanted to do it on a cheap 3D printer, because there would be no thrill if the project was only possible with professional material.
Which model did you choose and why?
I chose the Zone for three reasons;
- I already owned a Mamiya universal and had lenses and parts to cannibalise.
- Shooting street I wanted something small and portable and easy to use. Half of what makes street photography wonderful is the random and haphazard nature of the city. I didn’t want slow precision, I wanted something fun that would reward risk taking and the size and lack of viewfinder attracted me in that sense.
- I wanted to shoot street on a wide 35mm format, like an XPAN. A 6x7 back with a leaf shutter lens and 3D printed 35mm to 120 film adapters were all required to work together. The Zone gave me $5000 XPAN results with the shooting experience of a Hasselblad SWC for the price of a roll of printer filament ($35).
Did you made any change in the camera files? If yes, what and how? If not, is there anything that you would be happy to change?
Unmodded. I just added my own scrap shutter release grip and spirit level.
What was the most challenging part of building your own camera?
Again I use the cheapest ALDI printer I could find, a $125 rebadged Wanwao or something. The whole printer broke down and I had to pull it apart and put it back together a few times. Trying to stop warping with the non-heated bed was a challenge. Minor technical things that come from cheap printers.
But they were part of the journey and I enjoyed making a working camera from an entry level printer. I had a “control” version printed by a professional in higher grade filament on a very expensive printer in order to compare it to my own.
They worked the same. So it was validating.
How would you compare this journey to buying a ready made camera?
If you’re a professional you need a camera for work that is reliable and capable of the job.
They joy of using even the best DSLRs quickly fades as they become a tool. Even the nicest hammer is just a hammer for a professional builder.
When it comes to shooting personal projects I think a tool needs to be more than capable and reliable - it has to be enjoyable to use. The process of making the image becomes as important as the final image itself.
Whether I’m shooting street or in the bush I don’t take my best camera I take the one I love using the most.
Making a camera adds another layer to that sense. I felt more ownership over the image making process. Like developing your own film you own your mistakes but you also own your own successes with a self-printed camera.
Show us some photos what you have made with your new camera!
Do you have any advice for first time camera builders?
If you have patience you don’t need money. Focus on what feels good when you’re using a camera, the shutter sound, the film rewind, the camera itself all has to be something you enjoy.
Do you have any previous projects that you could share with us?
Only what I mentioned above:
Caffenol-C develop + salt water in the sun fixer all shot in a Goodman Zone… that’s almost entire ownership of the photographic process. I haven’t done it yet but give me time.