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@MeltingCameras - Further Explanation

People are generally confused by the @MeltingCameras project, so I’ll attempt to explain further. This project is a celebration of chance and alchemy. It is irreverent towards the norms and tropes of image-making while being deeply rooted in the practice of photography.


First, a silicone mold of a camera replaces the traditional photographic negative. A Caffenol solution fills the mold and freezes it into the shape of a camera. The mold is the negative, and I pull out a frozen positive.

What is Caffenol? Caffenol is a recipe that mixes everyday household items such as coffee, vitamin C, and washing soda to develop photographic film and paper. Other recipe variations include orange juice, beet juice, pineapple juice, tomato sauce, and plant waste, but the common denominator is vitamin C and washing soda. I used Caffenol because regular photochemistry will not freeze.


The frozen camera, or “the positive,” was placed onto an 8 x 10 piece of photographic paper and was put out to melt in my backyard. (The liquid is caught in a pan and recycled.) As the frozen camera melted, it left traces where the Caffenol flowed and pooled, developing the areas of the paper it touched. Each print is unique because each camera melts differently. The colors change slightly depending on which recipe is used and how potent the formula is. The time a camera takes to melt depends on the temperature that day.


The melts were streamed live on for however long it took to melt. The streaming stems from the first exhibition of this project at The California Museum of Photography when the melts were streamed live on YouTube. Initially, the museum kept the microphone on and would pick up the reactions of the staff and museum-goers to the “event” and the distinct smell the melts produce. During the melts, you could hear the ambient sounds of my backyard. You’d listen to wind chimes, airplanes flying overhead, or me talking on the phone. It was a plodding experience, but just as you think nothing is happening, the camera will droop further than before, or there will be a familiar sound. It’s akin to watching glaciers melt into the sea.


This project was an unorthodox meditation on time, dedication to an idiosyncratic art practice, and a quest to answer what-if questions.


Besides, the internet is strange; here is one little corner of it.

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