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Pick one, any one, because the 2016 Somerville Toy Camera Festival (STCF) is all over town! Juried this year by Christopher James, the reigning expert and fervent proponent of “alternative processes”, this year’s selections enliven the galleries at four venues through the end of September: Brickbottom Gallery, Nave Gallery Annex, Washington Street Art Center, all in Somerville (http://www.somervilletoycamera.org/exhibitions/) and an actual life-sized camera obscura, with accompanying exhibit of works by Marian Roth at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester (http://www.griffinmuseum.org/blog/griffin-gallery/).
Without fail, the Somerville Toy Camera Festival is one of my favorite Boston-area adventures. But why? A combination of inventive equipment and techniques, along with an exhilarating infusion of serendipity makes viewing these works a veritable joy ride. From Nicolas Guillen, who lined a beer can with 120mm B&W film for his vertiginous pinhole image to Atsuko Morita, who crafted a multiple pinhole camera to create a colorful quilt of softly evocative portraits, the freedom from conventional constraints is intoxicating.
The variety of effects seems endless. From gauzy, sepia-toned landscapes to lyrical, color-filled abstractions, the range of imagery nonetheless shares the sensation of heightened emotion. With toy cameras, feelings triumph. The optics of these cobbled-together cameras transforms our perceptions of reality into something more personal and intimate.
The only thing level about these exhibits seems to be the playing field, as amateur and professional photographers alike put us under their spell. As the kid in all of us knows, toys can be magical.
I offer my sincere apologies for the horrible quality of my installation views of the artwork, most of which are invaded by reflections of me and my iPhone. All of the images here were taken at the Brickbottom Gallery. For hours, directions and more information about all of the exhibiting venues, go to: http://www.somervilletoycamera.org/exhibitions/
Feature Image: “ISOLATE” (Detail) by Kathleen Donohoe, made with 4×5 wooden pinhole camera (courtesy of the artist).