Saturday, August 16, 2008

TTV Photography

Many photographers collect old cameras, myself included. I find them at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. I once bought an entire box full of them at a Salvation Army. I display my favorites on shelves in our dining room. From time to time I load one with film and take photographs with it, just to be reminded of what photography was like pre-digital, pre-auto exposure, pre-auto focus, pre just about everything we expect from a modern camera.

One evening while surfing Flickr, I stumbled across an interesting collection of images made by photographers utilizing vintage cameras, but not in the usual way. Rather than capturing the latent image, the vintage camera served onlt as the host, to a parasitic, macro lensed, digital camera.

Through the viewfinder photography, or TTV for short, is photographing any subject through the viewfinder of any camera with another camera. The viewing camera is most often a vintage TTR (twin lens reflex) from the 50’s or 60’s, like the Ciroflex or Duaflex. A digital camera with a macro or close focusing lens is used to record the image framed in TTR viewfinder.

To prevent stray light from making reflections in the viewfinder and to increase contrast , a long box usually made of cardboard is taped over the top of the TLR and the lens of the digital camera is inserted in the top of the box. The inside of the box should be painted flat black to prevent stray light from bouncing around inside. While it is possible to hold the viewing camera with your left hand and your digital camera with right, most TTV photographers devise some type of rig to hold it all together.

What makes these images appealing is just how different they look in comparison to photographs taken with a digital camera. In my opinion, digital has homogenized modern photography. First of all, TTL viewfinders are square, some have rounded corners. Some have grid lines or cross hairs and most have specks of dust, heaviest in the corners, making a cool vignette. Pin cushion distortion is prevalant, as the manufacturer spared the expense of correcting for distortion, in the viewing lens.

Check out other TTV images and discussions, including D.I.Y. TTV rigs @

If you've been following my blog from the beginning you may recognize the top two images as Gus's old Dodge!