We live in an age of egalitarian photography. Anyone with access to a smart phone and an Instagram filter is potentially capable of producing a beautiful image. No longer is it necessary to buy the next and best DSLR or invest in a trendy Leica. As famed photojournalist Ernst Haas put it, "The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are."
Perhaps no other photography competition buys into this reality more so than the appropriately named Krappy Kamera contest. First launched by Soho Photo Gallery 22 years ago as a group show, the now international juried competition asks anyone with a krappy kamera -- a Holga, a Diana, an Ansco or a pinhole -- to send in their best shots. The idea is simple: "In the hands on an artist, great photographs can be made with basic equipment." The lousier the lens, the more Soho Photo wants to see your work.
Davis, Ellen (Foliation Second Prize)
The competition is open to all photographers over the age of 18. Note: cell phones, disposables and point-and-shoot-cameras are ineligible. Krappy Kamera favors, as we mentioned, an inexpensive camera like the Holga, one that allows blurring, vignetting and light leaks to invade the frame, producing a lo-fi vision that makes Soho judges drool. And yes, they can be cheap. For example, Holgas run for a cool $29.99 online.
Krappy Kamera co-chair Myra Hafetz echoed Haas' words to Hyperallergic: “It’s very important in this age of complicated electronics to be able to produce great photographs with very basic equipment. In the end, it’s the eye of the photographer that’s paramount.”
The guest juror for the 2015 contest was Miriam Leuchter, photojournalist and editor-in-chief of Popular Photography Magazine. Following the 17th annual Kall for Krap, 43 winners were announced, hailing areas as diverse as Mississippi and Alaska, Russia and Italy. In return for their submissions, the photographers received some Krappy Kameras (and sponsored gift certificates from the likes of Fujifilm). And their carefully crafted photos went on view at the gallery, alongside separate exhibits by gallery members.
Black-and-white Holga user and Georgia native Kristin Karch took first place this year with a portrait of her grandmother -- or, rather, a cardboard cutout of her grandmother strategically positioned at the entrance of her bedroom. In second place, Alaskan Ellen Davis reconstructed a mountain panoramic, collaging multiple exposures into one gorgeous landscape. Finally, in third, there's James Rohan from Massachusetts, who used a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash and 50-year-old-plus film to capture the sublime nature of a cliff. While neither of these participants indulged in flashy technology, they've produced uniquely composed photographs that wrangle distortion in the best ways possible.
Krappy Kamera honorable mentions went to Alexa Frangos from Illinois, Gregg Kemp from North Carolina and Marky Kauggmann from Massachusetts. A full list of the 43 lucky winners can be seen here. In the meantime, check out the fruits of the winners' labors here, along with works by pinhole master and Soho member Craig Barber.
Soho Photo Gallery is showing the Krappy Kamera exhibit Wednesdays to Sundays, from 1 to 6 p.m., from February 4 to the 28.