How To Make A Disposable Camera Installation
One of my biggest passions in this world is guerrilla art, which is just various types of installations and art abandonment as a way to interact with strangers in an artful way. One of my first experiences with guerrilla art was this idea I had to leave a disposable camera on the street with a sign for passersby to take pictures. It yielded amazing results, and I was instantly hooked. That was three years ago, and since then I’ve done dozens of disposable camera installations. Today, I want to share with you tips on creating your own installation in your city!
Materials You Need
Yarn or string
Marker or printer
1) Use your paper or poster board to either print or hand write a sign.
Your sign should be as easy to read, attention grabbing, and simple as possible. It should have an invitation to take a photo, a reminder to wind between photos and use flash if necessary, instructions to leave the camera there, and knowledge of where to find the developed photos later.
After all my guess and test experiences, I’ve realized simply writing “leave the camera” results in less stolen cameras.
Pssst- at the bottom of the post you can download a sign template!
2) Get yourself a disposable camera.
In an overwhelmingly digital world, it’s becoming harder and harder to find analog options including disposable cameras, film, and places to get them developed. In the US, I’ve found many places that still sell cameras including Walmart, Target, CVS, and Urban Outfitters. You can also find them online. They run around $6-8. My favorite is the Kodak brand, but the Fujifilm ones work well, too!
3) Find where you can get your film developed.
The only place around me that let’s me develop my disposable cameras anymore is Walmart. My CVS location stopped doing it as well as other places. There’s usually about 27 exposures on a camera, and the cost at Walmart with singles and a photo CD (they don’t let you get just a photo CD unfortunately) is around $11. I’d love to hear of any places in the US or otherwise that still develop disposable cameras!
Something else to know, at least at Walmart, is they don’t do one hour options anymore. They send them out to a different location for developing and it can take up to a week to get your pictures back.
4) Decorate your camera (optional).
Since this is an art project, it’s a nice touch to decorate your disposable camera! I love using washi and duct tape, as well as stickers to give it some color. If you’re using tape, I definitely recommend stripping it off before you drop it off for developing.
If you cover up the camera, use a permanent marker to indicate where the flash button is so people can use it. I can’t tell you how many photos have been ruined by people forgetting to use flash, so it’s important to draw as much attention to the button as you can.
5) Tie some yarn or string to your camera.
Secure it tightly (either with a knot or enforced with tape). Give a fair amount of slack on the other end of the yarn because you want the participants to be able to have options for taking pictures.
6) Select your location.
Areas with a lot of foot traffic are obviously the best option. You don’t want to leave your camera outside for too long, so the more people that pass it, the quicker you’ll go through the film.
It’s great to leave it in places people need to go, like next to a parking payment station or a bus bench. Keep in mind it’s a great idea to have a place for the camera to rest. You can definitely measure your yarn so the camera dangles from a pole, though. It’s really up to you and what you prefer and want to try.
You also want to keep inclement weather conditions in mind, so installing it under some sort of shade structure or awning is ideal so it can’t get wet. Make sure to check the weather before you head out to install!
7) Set up your installation.
Tie your yarn to the location you’ve selected (a pole, bench, etc). Tape on top of the yarn to reinforce it. Tape your sign on top of the yarn, and reinforce it with packing tape. If you can cover the whole sign, that’s great because it will weatherproof the instructions.
Set the camera on a nearby surface or dangle it. If you have a plastic sandwich bag, you can stick your camera in the bag as extra weatherproof protection.
I recommend also using sidewalk chalk to draw attention to your installation. Write “Take A Picture” in a few spots on the ground nearby with arrows directing pedestrians to your project. You could also tape up additional signs with arrows.
8) Check on your installation.
I don’t recommend leaving your camera out for more than two days. Anything longer than that drastically increases chances for damage to the camera (rain, extreme temperatures, accidents) and theft. If you come back after two days and there’s a good amount of pictures left, take down your installation and reinstall it somewhere else because that means this area doesn’t have enough foot traffic or the right population for this kind of project.
If you have the opportunity to periodically check on the camera, I definitely recommend that. It will give you piece of mind as well as draw attention to it.
9) Get your film developed.
Now that you now where to get your film developed, you go drop it off and wait! Hopefully you have a place you can upload your photos that you posted on your sign, and you can now share them.
Things To Know
Out of all the installations I’ve done in the past, I’d say at least 40% have been stolen before I come back for them. This is just part of the game. Creating any type of public art is essentially a gift, where you can’t expect your supplies to be there when you return. You can hope, and boy do I, but there’s no point in being angry or discouraged when your camera goes missing. It sucks, but you can try again.
It’s also possible you’re going to get some indecent photos. I’ve actually only ever gotten one in all these years, but you’re dealing with strangers and you never know what you’re going to get. I promise the element of surprise is worth it, even if you get a couple dick pics. Ha!
This month, I left a disposable camera out on Eastern Avenue in Baltimore, near my boyfriend’s house. It was great because it was within walking distance and I was able to check on it frequently. It also means my friends used the camera which was a nice surprise. You can see the results below.
Bonus! Get a free printable sign template for your first disposable camera installation!
Questions For The Comments:
Did I miss anything? Do you have any questions?
PS – You might also like Guerrilla Art 101