Driftwood Pinhole — An Interview With Camera Maker Sergey Lebedev
While some look at driftwood and see trash, Sergey Lebedev sees potential. Stroke after stroke, Sergey patiently works on discarded pieces of wood to bring out the camera that’s hiding underneath. Sand, sea, and salt smooth the woods before they wash ashore near Sergey’s seaside home. The Baltic Sea is generous and there’s no better way to be grateful than to use its gifts to create masterpieces.
Hello, Sergey. Welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello, my name is Sergey, a seeker of harmony in creating of photographic crafts. I’m also an enthusiastic yoga practitioner and runner.
Where did your fascination in pinhole cameras come from?
For me it’s all started with an old Zenit-E, back in the late 90s. And putting my first film in the camera, I even did not know how to use it but I still remember the feeling of discovering [something] new which is I think familiar to all readers here. :)
Many years and many different cameras after, the very hobby of film photography and the feeling of discovering something new returned as pinhole photography.
What made you choose driftwood for your camera work?
I have always enjoyed working with wood. It was initially lamps and all sorts of crafts made of driftwood. At the same time I tried to make pinhole cameras, but they were very simple ones (for example a camera made from a soapbox).
So one day I decided to try to make a camera box from a piece of old wood I found on the beach. That’s when my first camera was born. I was so excited with the result of this perfect combination of my two favorite hobbies.
What inspires you to create cameras and make images?
Beauty of the materials and the process. Everything starts and ends on the shores of our beautiful sea. Fallen trees become instruments to capture the same shores and the same trees.
What are the challenges in designing and making cameras out of driftwood?
Each camera is unique in its own way. Everytime is like a new challenge to create something new. This is perhaps what inspires me most. It is impossible to repeat what has already been created, so each time it’s kind of a new sculptural work.
And also when you make trunk cuts, you don’t know what will ultimately happen until you put everything together. It’s almost the same with the film photography — until you develop the film, you can only guess what results are waiting for you.
What’s the favorite project you’ve done so far?
If we talk about pinhole cameras — the cameras with the glass and ceramics from the same shores as the driftwood. Also cameras made of plywood, found on the seashore and painted by my artist friends.
How do you start your crafting process? In your experience, what materials make the best cameras?
It’s all begins at the beach with a search for suitable driftwood. Then the process of drying the wood in which I’m not particularly involved. :)
The main work begins with sawing the tree and assembling the boxes. In my opinion, the material itself is not important. The most important thing is that it’s a process that brings you joy of creativity. :)
We love the images you’ve made with your creations. They’re calm, serene. What do you like most about pinhole photographs?
Those are exactly the qualities that I like in pinhole photography. Long exposures can turn water into a fog and only what is motionless will be more sharp. You can easily play with multi-exposure… But perhaps the most pleasant thing is that you can admire the process of shooting as much as 5 or 15 seconds, and even longer. Real meditation! :)
Do you have new projects lined up?
Yes sure, I have quite a lot of ideas that are still waiting for their time. I do not want to stop at only using driftwood. There are tons of plans to work with metal and ceramics, plastic and different resins. I also want to continue the series of hand-painted cameras and to work with other artists. I also have some ideas with completely different designs.
What advice would you give to people who would like to make cameras of their own?
Very simple advice: just start. Take the first thing that comes to hand and make something. Even if nothing will really work at first. Most importantly — you will get the joy of creativity, the joy in the creation process. This joy will push you further to the new ideas.
So basically, just start and have fun!
We would like to thank Sergey for letting us feature his work on the Magazine. If you’re interested in his pinhole cameras and images, you may visit his website for more.