a snail shell on it's way to becoming a camera

Thomas Kellner: Snail Shell Camera, 1994


One day,on a walking tour somewhere down in South of France, somehing blinky and shiny on the ground, caught my eye. It was the mother-of-pearl of a snail shell blinking at me. I picked it up. The outside was sandy and ugly, but the inside was of natural beauty. The top outside was also broken and you could see the spiral inside. Carefully examining at my little treasure, I discovered a tiny little hole in the top - the perfect pinhole. Right after returning home to where we were staying, I started building a small camera out of a film can and attached the snail shell on top of one side.

All day long, I took little test shots with my hand made camera. I had to cut small, round negatives the sise of my smallest fingernail. After a days' work, just before dusk, the snail shell device was functioning like a real pinhole camera.

Back home in the darkroom, I made contactsheets of everything I had taken during the summer. I was very surprised by the perfect abstract and round form of this test series made with my snail shell camera. That's what I called it: A snail on it's way to becoming a camera.


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