The Big Throw
A new way of catching snapshots finds its fans. However, with camera tossing you mainly catch your camera, because the camera is flying free in the air while taking the picture.
Placerville, California, a small gold-digger town at the Sierra Nevada. For over one hour a man in his mid-forties stands in front of a video store throwing his camera again and again at the dark sky. The staff of the store kept an eye on him and finally called the sheriff. What no one suspected: the supposed maniac was only taking photos in a bizarre way.
Because with the new trend "Camera Toss" you are not trying to hold the camera fixed in your hand in the common way. Instead, one stout-heartedly throws a good camera dauntlessly into the air, curious to see what is shown on the display after the toss. “I don’t mind if I throw the camera 30, 50, or 100 times to get a result close to I what I imagined.”, said the suspected camera tosser David Hull: “Fortunately, there are digital cameras and delete buttons.” The classical subjects for the new genre are colorful neon lights, which transform into wild and colourful light and color traces due to the flight path and rotation of the camera.
In case you have a successful catch technique beside a good throwing technique, oddly abstract images are produced. Night camera toss images give the appearance of having been edited with a computer program. The counterpart of the night toss is the day toss which reproduces the environment somewhat recognizabley, but merrily distorted and twisted. The reason for that is the slowness of the sensors which can’t keep up with the fast rotation. Self portraits are very popular, however, they don't turn out very pleasant. Nothing for vain people. Also effective - The indoor toss. Indoors you can arrange and combine light sources any way you want them. For example, using CDs to fracture the light – and you can play it safe if you use some thick feather pillows.
The delights of the TV toss are the refresh rates which produce a whole salvo of screens in the photo. The spectrum of tossing images ranges from resembling scientific nano-scale to astronomical spiral nebulas. But almost never does the resulting image have anything to do with what is seen when the photo is taken, because the flight of the camera determines the final result.
The Mini-How-To of the scene reads in short like this: Get a camera, find a subject, set-up the self timer or use a long exposure time, push the trigger, toss the camera and catch the camera. Sounds really simple, but if you have two left hands - let it be.
No Budget Gets First Choice
It is comforting that, often, cheaper cameras produce better results. Certainly the point is to figure out how it works, play with the technique and gain experience. It would be condemnable to swing the camera with the strap or hang it on a rubber band. The camera has to fly free in the air. Also too much manipulation with Photoshop is discredited, because camera tossing is an In-Camera-Technique. If photo film didn't cost so much, you could just as well use your analog camera. To edit the photos by cropping or adjusting the saturation, contrast, brightness and color is allowable. You can also change or invert the image colors to show the light traces more clearly. All other editing is cheating. And what you also should never do is: “Don’t drop your camera, don’t give it to a clumsy person to try, and never throw one which you cannot afford to crash. And if you still do it, don’t blame me.” Ryan Gallagher said. The 29 year old light engineer and stage manager is an avocational artist, web designer, and the inventor of Camera Tossing.
Out of the street into the museum
He is probably not the first who has thrown his camera into the air and pushed the trigger. But he is the first who kept up, made the technique public and in less than 2 years built up a community. After a Blog and a Flickr group followed the first international exhibition in Hamburg. Gallaghers work was just shown at an exhibition in Florence and at the Torrance Art Museum in California, where he invited all other tosser’s to participate. Almost 12000 photos on Flickr are tagged with “Camera Toss”, the group counts over 3,200 members. But, “Most of them are members, because they like the photos”, Ryan says. “There are about 30 people who really work with the idea. The group always rearranges itself, but some old school members stay.”
We wanted to know who is behind the colourful images and checked out the community: For example there is Jonathan Vo, a 16 year old highschool student from Texas. Jonathan likes to toss on the way to the bus stop or instead of a boring lesson at school. His favorite subjects are computer monitors. What’s the thrill for him with camera tossing? “The fact that my camera is up there taking a picture while I don’t have control over it gives me the thrill. It’s a game between the camera and a wonderful photo. I love that game. You’ll never know what’s gonna happen. After catching the camera, the picture taken makes me do it again and again. It i s so easy and it only takes about 2 seconds to take a photo for which a graphic designer needs hours.” Are you never anxious about your camera? “Sure. It costs about 500 dollars, which I couldn’t afford again. But as a thrill seeker I risk it.”
The 43 year old Fernando Messias lives in Lisbon, Portugal, and works for an Outdoor Event Agency. He doesn’t have to worry about his equipment, because he takes his photos at the sandy beach with his mobile phone. Self-portraits are his favorites, “because, they distort yourself so funnily”. Christian Kienzler from Niedersachen (a state in Germany) is mainly a mobile phone tosser as well: 33 years old, married, biologist and a soon-to-be teacher. He started camera tossing while walking his dog. “I have my mobi le phone, which I use as my camera always with me. That way I can toss it at anytime if I see something.” Do Friends and acquaintance take his new way of photography seriously? “It is a hobby, fun. I don’t know, whether I want to be taken seriously for this. Who takes a stamp-collector seriously?”
Success With Coincidence
Another German in the community is the 31 year old Jens Ludwig, who works as a programmer for an internet company at the Lake of Constance. He tosses to relax and likes subjects with colourful lights and CD’s. He probably spread the most widely known camera toss; he sold a photo to a design agency in San Francisco for a package design. He discovered his photo on the box for Adobe Acrobat 8. “It was great to see my own photo on a product from Adobe.”
David Hull, the 44 year old Californian, who because of him the Sheriff was called, works during the day as a geologist. He finds it exciting when the laws of nature, like centrifugal force, inertia, gravity and rotation superimpose on his idea of the photo. The actual forms themselves, as well as the little details within the light sources, “for example the patterns from neon gas oscillation, alternating current, and refresh rates of monitors.” In addition there is the exaggerated 4-D effect from the camera toss which captures time as well.
So different they are, yet their passion for a bizarre hobby connects tossers - so they must have something in common? “I think most of them are curious and enjoy the influence of “the other” whether it is Intelligent Design or the law of physics. I think they are people who don’t have fear of things they don’t completely understand”, David assumes.
Still the number of camera tossers fades compared to other photo trends like Lomography. Can we compare them? One of them tosses their cameras into the air, the others shoot photos from the hip. Both of them are fun and have to do with coincidence. The Camera tossers did not want to draw parallels, because too much separates them from Lomographers. Ryan Gallagher admits that both communities “have an uncommon preference for cheap equipment”. “Sometimes the best equipment is not the best for the goal you want to achieve.” Actually all tossing cameras used by the Toss-Trend founder were disposable-cameras, which mean those that already belonged in the trash. He made the 23 prints for his first international solo exhibition with a camera with a broken display, which a friend crashed during a bike accident. “With limited possibilities you can be more creative than with unlimited possibilities.” Ryan says. Whether camera tossing becomes one of the big photo trends perhaps depends on whether Eschel Jacobsen and Mads Ny Larsen find an investor. Both Danish designers have developed a special camera tossing camera named SatuGO – a abbreviation for “See, Aim, Throw, captUre & GO”. The tennis ball sized rubber ball can be thrown unconcerned: It is shock-proof and can even land in a pond. Switches and a display would be disturbed, so the different functionalities like exposure time or self-timer can be set by knocking on the camera. Already 4,270 prospective hobby camera tossers are interested in buying one. Perhaps sometime soon there are going to be bouncing balls at parties and on schoolyards taking photos of surprised and distorted faces.
Photos published in the magazine:
Jonathan VO (jon62690):
Jens Ludwig (QuakkauQ):
David Hull (mtnrockdhh):
Ryan Gallagher (clickykbd):
Christian Kienzler (tossthecam):
Screenshots of the article
Original article published in the german magazine "Fotomagazin" issue 08/2007.
Author: Anja Martin www.anjamartin.net.
Copyright Fotomagazin www.fotomagazin.de.
A short version of the original article (in German) can be found here www.fotomagazin.de/galerie/detail.php?we_objectID=490.
Translation done by Christian (tossthecam) and Jens (QuakkauQ).
Special thanks to Dave (mtnrockdhh) for his revision of the translation. After doing the revision Dave now knows what a "Flummi" is ;-)
Please respect the magazine's copyright and do not publish this translation anywhere else.
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