I was interested
in environmental portraiture, the mix between the environment and
the person. I didnt know any of these people, but they knew
my face and felt comfortable with me. I had been there with a medium-format
camera the year before. I would have little contact sheets to show
what I was doing. I would ask questions about what they were doing
in the community and their lives. They felt comfortable with a toy
camera, they were not threatened at all.
Carl Robert Pope, Jr.
Carl Pope began to document the
black community in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1982, using a toy camera.
The previous year he made photographs in that same community using a medium-format
4 x 5-inch camera. He found the big, heavy 4 x 5-inch camera tiresome
to haul around, and he was interested in being more spontaneous, more
immediate, and less threatening. In 1982 he picked up a toy camera. It
used 120 mm film, too big for the 35 mm negative holders that fit in the
darkroom enlargers he was using, so Pope cut his own negative holders
out of pieces of cardboard.
When I started to print the pictures I really liked the edge,
he explained, because it looked homemade, the whole look of the
image was informal. And then I had very little control over the exposure,
the three settings on this toy camera were sunny, partly
cloudy and totally cloudy. I was also fascinated with
the past and how, through photography, the past was illustrated with hand
coloring and stuff like that. The man in this picture inhabits the
edge of the photograph, and the lonely street beyond the edges has a very
worn feeling. Parking meters march down the street like poor little tilting
soldiers, and the man joins them on guard with his own tilting sword.