Jo Babcock

Photographer Jo Babcock fashions pinhole and simple-lensed cameras from found objects, and in turn, photographs related subject matter. He has created cameras out of an array of objects including coffee pots, guitar cases, a Volkswagon bus and an Airstream motor home to produce both small and mural-scale photographs. Working in this genre since 1977, Babcock has constructed over one thousand pinhole cameras. His one-of-a-kind paper negatives are distinctive for their distortion of form and color. Babcock’s landscape imagery is transformed by his process into an eerie painterly world of emotional dreamscapes with startling familiarity. Without the aid of a viewfinder, he intuitively places the camera, then exposes the light-sensitive film or paper to light. This unusual vantage point in combination with the uniquely Babcock pinhole quality, visually transports the viewer to the location, often witnessing the world from a point of view that a human eye would not otherwise see. Babcock has experimented prodigiously with pinhole cameras and other handmade low-tech devices, creating photographs with an inquisitive, meditative, and voyeuristic aesthetic. Babcock’s work has been exhibited internationally, including exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, Conseil Cultural Avignon, France, the Smithsonian-National Gallery of American Art, and the Sao Paulo Bienale.

Artist’s Statement

My work merges aspects of photography, sculpture, and conceptual art. During the past forty years, I have created over one thousand cameras from a plethora of recycled objects.

Constructing photographic instruments from old parts, discarded containers, cheap lenses and pinholes serves as topical commentary on consumer culture. Paradoxically, my approach is grounded in a personal, spiritual journey — a slow, meditative observance while capturing the magic of light.

Best known for my VW Van Camera and book, The Invented Camera, (Freedom Voices Press), I have built functional cameras from an array of common objects: coffee pots, maple syrup cans, suitcases, cigarette packs, and souvenir tins. With human assistance these canisters operate in a symbiotic manner seeking out their real world doppelgangers.