If the trend in photography is toward ever-smaller digital cameras, then consider Dennis Manarchy the least trendy man in America.
Not only is the camera he’s building from scratch not digital, it’s not small either. It’s also not big. It’s absolutely massive. As in “fills up your entire living room and may require the kitchen as well” massive.
The celebrated Chicago photographer is creating the Mother of All Cameras: an old-time 35-foot bellows camera, which requires negatives the size of a grown man and will produce photographs more than two stories tall.
And, in its one similarity to a subcompact digital camera, it, too, will portable. It just will be hitched onto the bed of a semi-trailer and toted around the country, not stuffed in a pocket.
Manarchy isn’t just building the MOAC as some stunt or masochistically labor-intensive means to land a Guinness World Record. He will be using the camera to take stunningly vivid, oversized portraits for his “Vanishing Cultures” project, which features, among others, Holocaust survivors, members of small Native-American tribes, Cajuns and the Tuskegee Airmen.
Once complete, Manarchy will place the camera in that truck and tour with it around the nation, using it to photograph members of these groups and help preserve their legacies and ways of life.
He also envisions visitors being able to walk inside the actual camera, which is practically hollow, to gain a whole new appreciation for photography beyond “point, shoot, upload, tag and publicly humiliate your friends on Facebook.” You will be able to view his amazingly detailed images on his Foliofox portfolio once the project is complete.
Right now, the only thing standing between dream and reality is cash — because you can’t build a camera the size of a yacht on the cheap. Manarchy is using Kickstarter and Foliofox to help raise the needed funds, but in the meantime he is using a non-mobile prototype, which has already taken some magnificent photos.
He says that the resulting images have 1,000 times greater detail than an average photograph and explains, “Two days of preparation results in 1/1000th of a second flash exposure and I have only one chance to get it right. I literally focus half-way down an eyelash. If the subject moves, it’s out of focus … if they blink, it’s a disaster.”