It was sometime last fall that I first read about "through-the-viewfinder" photography, a weird DIY Rube Goldberg machine of a camera modification that basically ends up using a vintage twin lens reflex camera as a filter for a digital camera.
What one does is install the TLR at the base of a long, light-proof tube and then take a picture of the image visible in the TLR's viewfinder (which is at the top of the camera--in the image above, I have the camera lying on its back, and the image you see in the top lens is not unlike the image you'd see in the viewfinder if the camera were standing up and facing in the direction that the top of the camera is in now).
At their most stylish, TTV setups involve a lot of black cardboard and black tape and a carefully cut hole for the TLR lens. But lots of TTV practitioners who describe how they've done their work end up saying something akin to "I didn't have the patience for that shit; I'm using a cereal box wrapped in electrical tape!" I suspect that I will end up somewhere in between; I don't have time to mock up a box, and so for now I've just been using an old paper towel tube. Here's my impressionistic shot of one of my first attempts; it gives you a sense of the tube. I think that before I took this one, I hadn't even bothered to pull the rest of the paper towels off of the cardboard. I was that excited.
When I bounded out of bed this morning (and promptly decided to knock off the lattes for a day, because I clearly still had more caffeine in my bloodstream than was ideal), I decided to try the new camera setup--sans cardboard altogether--to catch the sunlight that floods my bedroom window in the morning. If you click on either of tonight's window images, you'll see one of the things that makes this kind of photography appealing and strange: all the flaws and scratches and accumulated dust in the old Kodak at and through which I'm now shooting--not to mention the curvature of the viewfinder itself--gives a different kind of texture to the end result.
It's my everyday world made strange and new: just the way I like it. And it's a return to something like the raw-edged negative carrier I used in photography class two years ago; one of the tricks of TTV is that you end up with an image much more ostentatiously framed than usual.
You can check out Karen Walrond's project "The Ranch" for further examples of how and why I'm so excited to start playing with this technique. A good part of my spring break is going to go toward getting this baby kitted up for further experimentation.
And then when I'm really settled, I just may have to start experimenting with the wacky stuff people do to modify cameras like my new-old Duaflex so that they'll carry 35 mm film. If I get really daring, I may even roll some 620 in there and see what happens.
Look at me go.