Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Bike Rack, Riverbank Park, New York City, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 3/4" x 6 11/16"  (id#504)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Exhaust Stacks, Riverbank Park, N.Y.C., 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 13/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#503)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Snow, Trinity Church Cemetery, N.Y.C., 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 11/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#500)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Three Towers, Washington Heights, N.Y.C., 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 3/4" x 6 11/16"  (id#498)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Bare Trees III, Bryant Park, New York City, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 3/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#495)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Fence, Shadows, and Snow III, Long Island, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 13/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#577)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Pier in Winter, Islip Town Dock, Long Island, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 13/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#569)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Roman Column, Isola di Giannutri, Italy, 1994


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 15/16" x 7"  (id#464)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Chaise and Leaf Shadows, Torino, Italy, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 3/4" x 6 11/16"  (id#529)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Path from Beach, Long Island, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 13/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#542)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Beach Grass, Nature Preserve, Long Island, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 13/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#543)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Rocks and Water V, Isola di Giannutri, Italy, 1995


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 3/4" x 6 11/16"  (id#557)


A peculiar thing about this image is that the water seems to come forward, to be closer to us than the rocks along the contour where they meet, when it's actually several feet further back. I rather like this, although I saw it only when I made a print, and not when about to take the photograph (which, had I seen it, might have induced me to do so). I'm never looking for such things when I take photographs, as I'm quite insensitive to them. I compose intuitively without thinking of such painterly questions as the old "push-and-pull" in a composition. Still, now and then there is a surprise.


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Rocks & Water (Jagged Edge), Giannutri, 1994


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 15/16" x 7"  (id#473)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Path, Upper Riverside Park, New York City, 1994


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 13/16" x 6 5/8"  (id#488)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available. 

Pinhole camera photograph in black and white.

Trees and Reeds, Long Island, 1989


126 format, gelatin-silver print, 6 3/16" x 6 3/8"  (id#259)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available.

This image is actually a pinhole photo, although as a landscape it seems to belong to this group. 

Landscape and other subjects photographed with a cheap, plastic camera using 120 black and white film.

Walking on Water, Isola di Giannutri, Italy, 1994


120 format, gelatin-silver print, 7" x 7 3/16"  (id#462)


Limited edition of 15 signed, numbered, archivally processed prints made by the artist.
Larger prints may be available.


Do you believe in miracles? 



Toy Camera Photographs 


These photographs are from a series made using a CamFlash, a simple, plastic camera with a very cheap plastic lens, which uses 120 roll film and gives an image area of 6x6 cm.  The lens being what it is, the images are sharpest at the center, and a bit blurred towards the outside.  Owing again to the sophistication of the lens (which could have been offered as a gumball-machine prize), there is also a distinct vignetting in the corners.


Given these technical characteristics, the photographer has to adapt and choose subject matter that lends itself to the means at hand - that is, to somehow make a virtue of a necessity.  Most serious users of the toy camera - and I mean artists, not true amateurs - gravitate towards a "snapshot" aesthetic (unsurprisingly).  But for me, the tendency - quite instinctive and unprogrammatic - is towards Pictorialism.  The imprecision of the toy camera leads to an emphasis on the relationships among major forms and on the general feeling of light, as in Impressionist painting and drawing, with little emphasis on detail.  In any event, these tendencies are highly personal.


Pictorialism followed Impressionism and was certainly influenced by it, but with a heavy dose of Romanticism, held over from earlier in the century. In any case, there is a strong flavour of the images of memory in these photographs, or how we recall things seen long ago.  Perhaps this is due partly from the syntax of these images, which has much in common with the old or antique photographs we are used to seeing, and with which we associate the idea of "the long ago".  They are not nostalgic; they are a little too remote and detached for that; rather, they are very internal.


Another thought on Pictorialism:  it's easy to think of Pictorialism as a dusty, stuffy old manifestation of Victorian-age sentimentality, with a very conservative aesthetic (I only have to think of Alfred Stieglitz's face, a perfect fit for his all-around gruffness).  But this overlooks the fact that Pictorialism has had a lot to do with painting's evolution towards the abstract.  It seems to me that it has been the very imprecision of pictorialist photography that drew artists (whether of the camera or of the brush) towards abstractionism.  Partly for reasons of technique, and partly for reasons of taste, sensibility, and - one must admit - mere fashion, photographers "had" to see their subjects in terms of broad masses rather than particulars.  Painters, already deeply influenced by photography, followed suit.  So besides giving due historical credit, it seems to me that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss as retro (or recycling or reactionary) the work of contemporary photographic artists whose work may evoke Pictorialism, or - heaven protect us - Formalism.


I've pasted in below the artist's statement I wrote some years ago, which amplifies the few remarks made above:


Toy Camera Photographs

by Allen Schill


– These photographs, dating mostly from 1994-95, were made with a child’s toy camera with a cheap plastic lens.  The camera uses 120 roll film, and leaves an image sharper towards the center, and darker and more softly-focused in the extremities. The borders of the image are slightly arched and a bit ragged, due to the crude way the camera is made.  Focusing scarcely exists, and there is no control over the shutter speed.  To photograph indoors is hardly possible without flash (whose quality of illumination I have never liked) or unusually bright ambient light.  Thus it lends itself to photographs made outdoors.


– They are similar in general aspect to the pinhole photographs.  Although the toy camera photos are medium and long shots, and the pinhole camera photos are usually close-ups, both share a roughly square format, and have one sort or another of soft focus.  The compositions, in both bodies of work, tend to be characterized by diagonality and an emphasis on the dispositions of objects in space.


– They are also related in feeling or spirit. In their roughness they have some of the fleeting, indistinct quality of images that we remember vaguely-but-vividly from years ago, like old family snapshots, even of unknown people and places.  More importantly for the artist, the feeling of being from another time shifts easily into the feeing that they are somehow out of time.


– Their subjects present themselves in a way that, on some reflection, begins to suggest something about the point of view of the photographer, that mute, invisible presence that one can sense here perhaps more than in other photographs.  In these images I feel my own senses reflected.  In a similar way, in some sort of transference, the image throws the viewer back on himself.  There are few if any people to be seen; the locations are out-of-the-way or remote, abandoned places perfect for lonely contemplation.  There is the viewpoint of a solitary person, one that focuses on one thing, or on a combination of elements meant to be seen as a whole.


– Certain of these toy camera images will remind viewers of the work of the Pictorialist Movement in photography, with its typically romantic, aesthetic, even sentimental vision of (photographed) reality.  (I say this even though it is not fair to typify Pictorialism in this way.)  Others display an angularity and strong chiaroscuro not unlike the bold, psychologically provocative forms of expressionist photography.


– I would not like to exclude anything from the range of possible responses to these photographs; viewed as a whole they run a broad gamut. Some of them can elicit highly diverse responses depending on the circumstances.  But for me, the feeling or viewpoint of these images is rather like the attitude of Zen:  the thing seen, whether in real life or on the wall or on the page, is only a catapult, hopefully, to another (inner) realization. Perhaps they are trying to be photographs of the inner eye as much as of the ostensible subjects themselves.


Allen Schill

January 2003


© 2014 Allen Schill.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced or used in any form without prior written permission from the author.  Anyone is welcome to link to it freely or to quote brief passages, but I would like to be notified.

© Copyright Allen Schill

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