The camera Trevor Foon built from scratch over four months.

The camera Trevor Foon built from scratch over four months.

WONTHAGGI photographer Trevor Foon has spent four months building a camera from recycled materials to produce a single photograph for a national charity auction.
“I made it all by hand from an old solid jarrah step from our heritage building’s staircase, which is over 100 years old,” he said.
“It took me four months of designing, adapting, testing and refining until I made it work the way I needed it. Everything used was recycled, collected or revamped from leftover materials.”
The auction, run by the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) – the country’s largest photographic membership body – is solely aimed at raising money for various charities each year.
This year, Mr Foon, volunteered his time and skills to produce an image, he took with his new purposely built camera, to raise money for Centre for Eye Research Australia.
The image was auctioned off for $7500.
“The process I used to create the auctioned image is called the wet plate process, which was invented in the 1830s,” he said.
“It involves pouring a solution of collodion directly onto a sheet of black coated metal and then dipping into a bath of silver salts.
“The plate is put into the camera while still dripping wet with chemicals. Once exposed, it is developed immediately.
“The resulting image is made of pure white metallic silver on the black plate surface.”
Once varnished to protect the silver from tarnishing, the image has an expected life in excess of 200 years.
“The metal fittings are also hand made with the instruction of my dad who was a fitter and turner in his days before he turned to photography.
“The lens and bellows were the only items I didn’t make,” Mr Foon said.
Images produced with this type of camera are unique.
Multiple copies aren’t possible unless the plate is copied and then paper prints made. This is what makes this tintype plate so valuable.
The size of the camera dictates how large the plate will be, so Mr Foon says he built his camera specifically to accommodate an 8×10 size plate.
“It’s a nice big size to make a statement when displayed. I wanted to make something that was functional and that might be kept and treasured sometime in the future when I am finished with it,” he says.
“So why use a slow, messy, smelly, unpredictable historic process in this day and age of digital perfection? One – it puts the craft and control back into the photographer’s hand, two – the images have a depth and clarity impossible to reproduce on paper; three – the images look soulful; and four – there is an element of pure magic seeing the image emerge from a tray of chemicals, as much for the photographer as for the participants,” Mr Foon said.