Cameras Made From Real Human Skulls

If you follow me on Twitter, you likly already saw this from my morning tweet, but I couldn’t resist posting it here as well. It’s just too unbelievable not to share. This photo (left) is of a functioning 4×5 camera made from aluminum, titanium, brass, silver, gem stones and a genuine 150-year-old human skull.


It seems that the maker of these camera, photographer Wayne Martin Belger is a complete purist and only willing to make his cameras specifically for each photo project in which he engages:

“I don’t see how I would be able to connect with my subject and produce what I want using something made in Germany or Japan. I don’t even own a camera that wasn’t made by me.”

I initially wanted to write Belger off, but after looking at a few interesting pictures and reading more about him, I couldn’t. While it’s not at all my style–or anyone’s style that I know–from a philosophical perspective he makes an interesting point about this and his other pinhole/skull cameras:

“With pinhole, the same air that touches my models can pass through the pinhole and touch the photo emulsion on the film. There’s no barrier between the two…what you get is an unmanipulated, true representation of a segment of light and time.”

Purist or purely nuts?

I don’t need unaltered pictures or the same air that touches my subject to hit my digital sensor, but I have an odd respect for someone who does. A poke around his website for those with an open mind (and a strong stomach) is certainly interesting. Ultimately the cameras he builds and the intention behind his art are more impressive to me than the actual pictures, but arguably the story and the process add considerably to the depth of the art. And Jorg Colberg knows as well as anyone that this begs a much deeper question about art.

(via notcot)

35 Responses to Cameras Made From Real Human Skulls

  1. mitchweiss January 8, 2009 at 1:32 am #

    Brilliant find.
    Gotta love creatives.

  2. ivan January 8, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    Took a while to figure out if this was for real.

  3. Mark January 8, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    Oh what. I go and spent all my money on a D90, and then the 3-D Tibetan Skull camera comes along and knocks it off its perch.

    I want one.

  4. Richard Cave January 8, 2009 at 3:21 am #

    I would make sure its an old priests skull, it would be better if he was a former Canon.

    Or we could have that old slavic despot Blad the impaler.

    Its not 1st of April yet is it?

  5. Anssi Saviluoto January 8, 2009 at 4:28 am #

    This guy thinks it’s very important to have the same air touching the film and the model. Then he puts his stuff on his website. I gotta say that air isn’t making it all the way to Finland. This guy is weird.

  6. Andy Hagedon January 8, 2009 at 4:42 am #

    Great find. And, can I say it? Now that’s … “using your head.” Particularly inspired after I jumped ahead to read about ultra-long pinhole exposures (e.g., Justin Quinnell’s photograph of the Clifton Suspension Bridge using a soda can strapped to a lightpole.) Very cool. I just added to my “experiment list” to learn more about this and try one out in ’09. Thanks for the post.

  7. jeremy earl January 8, 2009 at 5:14 am #

    ahh, creative people, what would this world be without them? The photos are pretty cool, and i’m guessing…NO PHOTOSHOP??? ha haa.

    I do love people like this though, the real heavy creative types, they make the world more interesting, you know? Who would you rather hang out with, a snowboarder that “likes to board” or a snowboarder who takes some snow from a run, makes a snowball, names it even, and puts in in her freezer all year so she can always be closer to the mountain, and then in the summer, then “returns” the snowball to its home on the first run the next year with all the pagentry of the olympics?

    creative weird people rock!

  8. mhakola January 8, 2009 at 5:23 am #

    Even though this is a thousand miles away from the sort of work that I do and generally surround myself with, I’m glad that there are artists out there who do this kind of work. It counterbalances out my own staid style. You certainly can’t question the guy’s dedication to his craft and I think some of the images are absolutely beautiful.

  9. Michael Warf January 8, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    I’ve been looking for something “different” in my RSS feeds this morning. This sir, is definitely “something different”.

  10. Drew Shipley January 8, 2009 at 6:02 am #

    I would have thought I’d encounter a group of cameras like that in a survival / horror video game versus in the real world. Very very much not my style or creative process, but still part of me is intrigued.

  11. Eric J. Keller January 8, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    I had the unique experience of actually holding this skull/camera in my hands a couple of years ago while visiting with the creator/artist in Los Angeles. It was very interesting to say the least. Thanks for the reminder Chase.

  12. bmillios January 8, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    I wonder if he gets hassled by the cops when doing street photography. We should put him in an Amtrak train station, and see what happens.

    “Honest, sir, it’s a camera.”

    “Right, buddy, up against the wall.”

    Should we invite him to Obama’s inauguration?

  13. Scott Van Dyke January 8, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    Interesting…I find his pinhole images very nice They could stand alone without the “camera hype” that he has created…but it the hype that got us to see these images….hmmm Imagine an artist creating hype to get there work seen. Not quite the “purest” as he claims to be.

  14. Thiago January 8, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    Forget about the skull camera..what about the HIV positive blood camera?

    But I do like it, it takes the whole “cult of the camera” to an artistic level. The art is really in the cameras, they just happen to also take photographs.

  15. Richard Cave January 8, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    Yea I agree with the last comment :-)

  16. Kevin Halliburton January 8, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    Impressive dedication to an artistic vision with some interesting results. I’m certainly more compelled by the images because of the forethought and craft that went into creating them. The #25 red filter on the HIV camera is one of the most remarkable photographic statements I’ve ever seen. Nuts? Maybe. But if so, he’s at least a brilliant nut with some serious machining skills.

    One little pessimistic nit… Since he “doesn’t even own a camera that he hasn’t made,” where did the pictures posted on his web site come from? They were probably created by the person who took the shots of him working but I just don’t know if I buy that level of “purity” after viewing that well designed modern web site…

  17. Kevin Halliburton January 8, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    I have to disagree that the cameras are the art and the pictures are secondary. This right here is a powerful image (statement) coming from any camera: The fact that it came from a camera created from roadside altar bits just adds a little more juice to the punch in the gut I got when I first saw it. If you read the artistic statement it’s pretty clear that every detail of the project, from start to finish, is very important to him. If nothing else this link made me pause for a moment and think about my own vision and subjects on a deeper level. Thanks for the link Chase.

  18. Ryan S January 8, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Reading the description of the HIV camera puts a knot in my stomach. It reminds me of the movie “Seven”.

  19. Tristan Wheelock January 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. The camera made with HIV positive blood was pretty intense as were the images. Everything looks so eerie through a pinhole.

  20. Thiago January 8, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    @ Kevin Halliburton

    Perhaps, but even the website design suggests otherwise. If the cameras are only a complement, why is there much more emphasis on them than on the photos themselves? The section is even called cameras, and not photographs.

    Of course, as cameras, they “should” produce photographs to justify their existence, and they are in fact designed specifically to produce photos that render the subjects according to the artists intents and views, producing powerful images. But I believe what really makes the artwork unique is the camera that produced it, and not the photography itself.

    Or, in netspeak: IMHO, but YMMV.

  21. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 6:36 pm #

    I think this guy is awesome. Before you criticize, you gotta get off your a** and do something interesting.

    Five gold stars.

  22. Tanya January 10, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    This makes me want to take another crack at my failed creepy doll pinhole camera.

  23. MH Media Online January 12, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Wow – I wonder if he’d get that on as hand luggage?

    If you wanted to make your own and had problems sourcing the raw materials, a visit to the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic might help..

  24. Eric January 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    I have to say, initially I had mixed feelings, but the fact is that the WAY this photographer captures photos is, in itself, art because it is a very pure expression of his philosophy.

    I don’t agree that images captured with a “standard” camera are of somehow less artistic value, but I do think this is pretty neat, though very strange too.

  25. Pam August 27, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I saw this and at least 5 other cameras in Toronto at the Contact photography festival. One camera uses HIV infected blood as a filter. Really stunning images and depth of creativity and social commentary. Really makes you think.

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