It always seems to be a race these days for photographers to get newer and better gear. They feel it will make them into a better photographer or produce better images. But the reality is that more often than not, it won’t. And it’s perfectly possible to create great images with older equipment, as Afghan photographer Haji Meerzaman is still proving on a regular basis.
Haji still shoots with a box camera he’s been using for 65 years. A box camera that was already at least 35 years old when he got it. It’s a fascinating piece of kit that’s essentially an entire camera and darkroom in a box. Travel YouTuber Drew Binsky was visiting Afghanistan and got to visit Haji and have his portrait taken using this camera.
The process has changed little over the years for this type of camera. You point it towards your subject like any other and expose photosensitive paper inside the camera to the scene before it. The chemicals to develop the paper are contained within the box and the photographer moves the paper from its frame in front of the lens into the chemicals in darkness, through holes in the side of the box.
There was a slight change during Drew’s shoot from the original techniques that would have been used a few decades ago, though. The final result coming out of the camera in this instance is a paper negative. But instead of photographing that paper negative with the camera again to produce a positive, it was scanned in at the local camera store, inverted and printed out there. And the result looks pretty awesome.
Cameras used to be described as simply a box with a hole in it, and I don’t think anything exemplifies this description more closely than this one.