Around six years ago, a friend of mine gave me an old Diana camera that he’d picked up at an electrical appliance store in Bolivia for $5. The box was beat up and there was a picture of a baby on it. He said it looked like a piece of junk, but it could take really neat pictures. I immediately took to it. It became my favorite go-to camera.
Dianas are crappy plastic cameras with light leaks that end up taking very nice, dreamlike photos if you know how to use them properly. There are a lot of really dreadful Diana pictures out there. Now that Lomography has re-issued them to a whole new generation of pretentious hipsters, there are even more poignant photos of shit like street signs and telephone poles. I prefer to shoot things I would normally shoot with a regular camera, just approach it with a plastic camera and see what happens. That’s one thing you don’t get with digital: fun surprises. I’m getting to an age where I’m more and more impatient with surprises, but I never tire of getting back strips of film to look over and analyze.
I’m happy with my little Bolivian dynamo. It’s gone with me to Boston, Chicago, Washington, Cape May, Philly and New York. I am still awaiting about 12 rolls of film from the local camera shop to be processed.
Personally, my favorite place to be to photograph things with the Diana is Cape May, NJ. I love that town dearly. My mom used to work there over the summers when she was young, and it always seemed like a great place to go. So – I up and went one summer with Auntie Elspeth, and didn’t want to leave. I returned twice and still felt reluctant to leave. I still daydream about living there one day. The place I stayed at on my first solo trip was the Chalfonte Hotel, which was at once eerie and wonderful. It is very very old fashioned…no TVs, clock radios, air conditioning, or even bathrooms in-room – they’re down the hall. I am pleased to see this hasn’t changed. The only thing I regret is not having photographed inside the place, which I believe is haunted. It has to be. What spirit would want to leave such a wonderful hotel, with its fabulous porch? Thunderstorms at the Chalfonte are spectacular. You sit on a porch with a bunch of elderly strangers and just feel at peace while the rain falls. I’m missing Cape May dreadfully. Must be time to book a trip soon.
I like the aesthetics of the Diana, because instantly they resemble the fuzzy memories I end up having when I leave a place. I love travelling, and I love new experiences, but eventually it all fades in the background. Somehow the Diana photo captures that. Here are some of my favorites from the past few years.
Starlite Drive-In, 2008. This place no longer exists. It was a fabulous drive-in with a reputation to match.
The War Pigs, 2007. Double exposure of a pig statue in State College, PA.
Photo of Charles Ramsey in front of a creepy abandoned farmhouse mansion. The house burned down less than a month after this shoot.
Fair Food Hallucination, 2008. I think this was a triple- or quadruple exposure. Shot at the infamous Grange Fair in Centre Hall, PA.
Multiple exposure photo of the Grange Fair, Centre Hall, PA.
Three little kids playing on the beach at Cape May, NJ 2009. I love this photo because it looks like it was shot 50 years ago. The kids were splashing around and looking for shells.
Guy running up the beach with his dog. Cape May, NJ 2009.
Coin operated horse at the arcade. Cape May, NJ 2009.
Lovely view of the lighthouse at the Point. Cape May, NJ 2009.
Beach loafers. Cape May, 2009
Beach Ghost, Cape May 2009.