Today’s pixeLess Thursday is completely selfish. Well, at least its about self-portraits. For a lot of photographers self-portraits are a well known way to express their art. Usually it’s no big deal: you set up your camera on a tripod, pose in front of it and release the shutter by some remote control trigger. you take the memory card to your computer and usually you have some decent images of yourself. But the IMAGO is nothing like this.
Not only does the IMAGO only produces black & white images in – you won’t believe it these days – a strictly analog way, it is also the only life-size camera intended to take self-portraits. And life-size really means life-size: this amazing camera delivers a so called Imagogramm, a 60 x 200cm (2ft x 6ft 6ins) self-portrait printed on a special black-and-white paper. The camera does not generate any negative or digital copy, but unique prints directly exposed on the paper.
There is one camera, the Imago 1:1, installed in Berlin, Germany. This camera has the amazing size of 7x4x3 meters and you literally have to walk in the camera to take the shot. Invented by the physicist Werner Krause and the artist Erhard Hößle in the 1970s it still is the largest walk-in-camera in the world.
These days Susanna Kraus. artist and daughter of the inventor and physicist Werner Kraus, takes the idea of the Imago 1:1 a notch further and has created the first ‘mobile’ version of the Imago 1:1 camera, the IMAGOphotour. Her dream is to travel around the world with it, to connect people with this fantastic camera and to invite them to the exciting adventure of photographic self portrayal, as she stated on a Kickstarter campaign back in 2013.
How the IMAGOphotour works
Susanna Kraus explained the idea behind the IMAGOphototour on her Kickstarter page:
The IMAGOphotour is an analog camera equipped with a lens designed specifically for life-size photography. Think of it as an oversized photo booth where you step into the camera, pose in your desired position against the mirror and press the shutter release to take your own self-portrait. Your portrait is being directly exposed on light-sensitive direct positive paper and 10 minutes later you’re standing in front your life-size black&white portrait.
(Note: The Video is in German)
At first some people might regard this idea as outdated in the digital age where pictures are available everywhere at every moment in time. But on second thought you’ll find that this is what mages the idea of an Imagogramm to stand out. The process is unique and, compared to your usual digital shot, slow. There is no burst rate, no ‘one of these 200 shots will be good’, no Photoshop, no sending to social media and so on. The portraits it produces are unique, they capture one precious and special moment in time, delivering a one of a kind portrait. As there are no negatives or digital backups each portrait is something special and extraordinary, not only by the size of the life-size shots, but by putting a certain value back into photography.
This 250 kg kg giant of a camera has an outer body based on lightweight aluminium modules and foldable canvas. The complete technical equipment and every single element are custom made especially for this camera.
Even the paper this camera uses is special. Again we quote from the Kickstarter page (which is worth a visit, as it holds a lot more information):
Originally used for reproducing drawings and plans until the 1980s, this special photo sensitive paper went out of production until the re-discovery of the IMAGO 1:1 in 2005. Since 2006 the paper is available again worldwide through a joint production by ILFORD Switzerland and Harman technology.
This is one of the most intriguing photography projects I’ve ever seen and we can only hope we’ll see this amazing camera traveling the world and taking fascinating self-portraits for a long time.