Bellows camera a labour of love

16:00, Nov 28 2010
Brian Scadden
LABOUR OF LOVE: Brian Scadden and his giant camera which captures picture negatives on a chemical-treated glass plate.

Brian Scadden has a thing for old-fashioned cameras and now he has built the biggest one seen in New Zealand.

The mammoth bellows camera – which is 80cm square, can stretch out to more than a metre and weighs about 60kg – was commissioned by Whanganui art photographer Ben Cauchi.

Mr Scadden, who is lab manager at Sir Peter Jackson's Park Road Post Production, recognised a challenge when he saw one.

A long-time photo-historian and collector of the cameras, he had built them from scratch in the past – but not on this scale.

"It's been a labour of love, it's probably taken 150 hours by the time you glue everything. The bellows are so big you can sit inside them.

"I've told Ben if he ever gets caught in a snow storm, `just climb inside and you'd be fine'. It's like a big dog kennel.


"It's not the type of thing you would want to take out in the field ... it's definitely the largest camera ever made in New Zealand."

Bellows-style cameras date from the mid-19th century, and in spite of the dominance of digital, the old photography style was going through a resurgence internationally, Mr Scadden said. Instead of using film, the picture negative is captured on a glass plate treated with chemicals.

Once laid on a black velvet background, you have a unique image – which in this case is 50 by 60 centimetres in size. The process requires the use of a dark room immediately before and after the picture is shot.

"It's a very complicated process. All along the way there are so many pitfalls ... it's so easy for things to go wrong.

"But they're beautiful pictures, almost a 3D effect."

The Dominion Post