Polish photographer Emil Stankiewicz’s has created a unique, handmade Talbotype camera nicknamed Idlozi, which means “window to your heritage soul.” Each unique image captured by the wooden camera starts as a paper negative which is then rephotographed with the same box camera to yield a positive print. The camera also known as a “street camera” or “á la minute camera” are inspired by Henry Fox Talbot’s calotype, the British inventor who was able to create a paper negative from which positive prints could be contact printed.
“I was inspired by Jakub Smolski, the village photographer from Luka,” said Stankiewicz. “He was taking photos about 1930 to 1945 with hand made camera with darkroom inside and reproduction arm. He was photographing rural residents and villages life. I was inspired by the camera and photos.”
Emil was drawn to the Talbotype process after progressing through a common photographic sequence using digital. Shooting macro subjects led to sports and action photography of BMX cyclists and skateboarding using radio-controlled flashes. He was drawn to this alternative process, as it felt more intuitive — using negative paper with low sensitivity, sunlight as the light source and one lens. The camera took a year to build and was in a state of constant modification based on field-testing.
“The main challenge with the camera is time,” said Stankiewicz. “People want ‘fast photos’ like digital or polaroid. My camera needs a few minutes to make negatives and then a positive. People really do like the final images.”
Stankiewicz’s process differs from the original Talbotype in that he rephotographs the negative to create the positive while Talbot’s process involved contact printing the negative using salted paper. “I use FOMA papers and difference chemist,” he said. “I make positives on reproduce arm by photographing the negatives.”
The portrait work continues but Emil is now leading workshops with schools back home in Bialystok, Poland through a program called "PROJEKTOR - wolontariat studencki" (PROJEKTOR - student's volunteer). His students are learning about the history of photography and a process that was used locally to capture portraits of villagers and their daily life.
All images appear courtesy of Emil Stankiewicz and Tomasz Pienicki. You can follow Emil and his camera via his Facebook page.