Neon Mamacita

Disposable, Not Dispensable

September 23, 2014 by annie


Vista, 2014

 Think back to the days when your mom sent you off to camp with a sleeping bag, bug spray, and a whole bunch of disposable cameras: you came back eager to develop the memories only to be surprised how nearly every photo was either an under-exposed mess or an accidental shot of someone’s upper nostril. But those that did come out…well they were the true gems; unexpected, funny, and sometimes even beautiful.

Nick Shepard’s collection of disposables is a great example of how exciting this medium can be. In his previous work De bekende wereld, he channels the painting of the Dutch Masters and asks viewers to “look again at the overlooked”, casting new light on everything from Chinese takeout to the fatigue of growing old. Although his disposables lack Vermeer’s touch, they too bring the everyday to life.

In our conversation about this new work, Nick talks about how it’s harder to get disposables now, how he doesn’t care about breaking the cameras, and more. Enjoy!



Greenery, 2014

NM: What do you like about disposable cameras?

NS: For one, they are the opposite of the cameras that I usually use. Unlike a nice digital camera or a 4×5, I’m not worried about doing anything to the camera; I’m not worried about losing it and I can’t look at the pictures right after I take them.

NM: Do your subjects interact with disposable cameras differently?

NS: I think of these pictures depicting parts of people—their legs or their arms or people’s faces—but for the most part, people aren’t really the subject of the photo. The subject of the photo is some other thing, some scene or moment or object. A big part of why disposables are so easy to work with is that people are used to seeing phone cameras, they don’t react to disposables that much. I often surprise people by taking a photo when they aren’t expecting it. My normal work involves a big set up, but with the disposables I can flit in and out and nobody realizes that there was just a photo shoot.

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables02Floodlight, 2014

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables01 Suds, 2013

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables03Paper Plates, 2013

NM: You use disposables to capture landscapes, which isn’t something that people naturally think of with this medium. Why?

NS: When we were growing up, disposables were often what we used at camp or on vacation. And I think that people can really relate to that. I want to try to capture some of the same nostalgic feeling that I think the audience can connect with. I’m always trying to work within the basic expectations of disposable cameras but finding opportunities to capture a more interesting photo than just a couple pictures of my friends.

NM: Where do you see these photos living, what is the end product that you had in mind? A full scale print, a fridge photo, or just for sharing on digital?

NS: I’d like to see them bigger for sure, because there is a shift in your expectations from what people typically expect with disposable cameras. But then again, I’d like to see them as a book because there is a relationship with photo albums and the way people look through albums and take in past memories. I’ve also been looking at Luigi Ghirri’s Kodachromes more recently and I’ve definitely become aware of visual and thematic similarities between these photos and his photos, although they are shot very differently.

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables05Rodeo, 2013

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables06Segway, 2014

NM: How do you treat these images differently in post production, was there any retouching?

NS: I basically bring them to a big box store get them on a CD and go from there. These are very rough versions of these images.

NM: Are you having more trouble finding the disposable cameras than you used to?

NS: Definitely. I’ve started ordering them from Amazon in bulk.

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables07Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2014

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables08Upstate, 2014

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables09Cliffside, 2014

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables13Arches, 2010

140816_disposable_2-35Dunes, 2014

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables11Party Cakes, 2013

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables14Limbo, 2013

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables16Flash, 2010

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables19Versailles, 2013

14_0922_NickShepard_Disposables10Tent, 2012

shep383-R1-012-4A_2Loop, 2014

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