June 15, 2008

The Diana and Diana+ Cameras

The following article was first posted on my pet blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Since it addresses creativity and photography, I am posting it here, for those of you who may not be familiar with the Diana and Diana+ cameras.

Pets offer many opportunities to explore one's hobbies and creative interests, such as photography, painting, drawing, knitting/crocheting, baking, scrap booking, and more. Today, I'd like to share with you my latest hobby, taking photos with a plastic, "toy" camera known as the Diana.

This past Christmas, Mark gave me a Diana+ camera (an upgraded version of the original Diana camera). I had first learned of the camera after visiting a photography exhibit a few years ago of Nancy Rexroth's photographs at the Columbus (Ohio) Art Museum. I came home and looked up Rexroth's work online and learned about the Diana camera. Something about that black and blue plastic camera and the photographs it offered fascinated me. (Not to imply anyone can reach Rexroth's level of artistry, but I wanted to try it out for myself.)

In the past, the Diana camera was considered a toy really, even a give-away in some cases. Today, you can buy original Diana's or Diana-type cameras from other enthusiasts and online auctions. I've listed several links at the end of this article.

As mentioned, the Diana+ camera is the new model and mine arrived with a beautiful hardcover book full of snappy marketing copy and color reproductions of Diana+ photos. The main thing to know about these cameras is that the Diana or Diana-type cameras are adjustable (shutter speed, double-exposures possible as well as one long panoramic shot taking up a whole roll of film, etc.) and unpredictable (not quite what you see through the viewer).

I am interested in collage and altered art and thought the camera would be a nice addition to my toolbox. When Mark and I saw one featured in a "last-minute holiday gift" segment on the Today Show, I remarked, "I've always wanted one of those cameras..." (Being married only five months, you won't be surprised to hear he was listening.) The camera arrived Dec. 26th.

After some confusion on my part as to film type (it takes 120), I purchased several rolls of black-and-white film and began shooting. Pets are the main focus in our home, so no need to look far for subject matter. In this article, you can see my first attempts at photographing Jackie. I upgraded to color for roll 3, as you can see with Farley by the fireplace and Gracie by the window.

The colors are rich, much richer than photos taken with my Kodak Easy Share digital camera (which takes excellent pictures and was a good buy). But the Diana camera seems to capture the atmosphere. I was surprised to find that by the third roll I had gotten the hang of how long to hold the shutter open (there are two settings: automatic shutter speed for outdoors and manual speed for indoors). Basically, I count to two. Farley's photo came out so clear! If only I hadn't cut off the top of Gracie's head!

The links that follow can give you more practical information and additional examples of photos taken with this type of camera:

Diana Camera Enthusiast's Blog2008
  • Allen Detrich's Diana Site
  • The Lomographic Society International
  • Quirks of the Diana Camera
  • Light Leaks: Low Fidelity Photography, magazine
  • Of course, this camera is also great for taking atmospheric photos of your favorite people. Here's one I took of my sister, Joan Phelps.

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