Some Assembly Required: Jonas Yip

This series focuses on those who take the making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

  Paris Dialogue , from Jonas Yip's homemade lens.

Paris Dialogue, from Jonas Yip's homemade lens.

Jonas Yip, Los Angeles, CA

Inspired by Mark Tucker’s “plunger cam,” which consisted of a loupe attached to a plunger and mounted onto a Hasselblad, Jonas Yip began experimenting with homemade lenses. At first he would hold up any transparent object that could be used as a lens to see if it rendered an image. If it did, he configured it onto his camera. Yip drilled out body caps for mounts, nested cardboard tubes for the lens body and focusing, and held everything together with copious amounts of black tape. In order to achieve the distance required for focusing, most of Yip’s early lenses were quite large and too unwieldy for Yip’s purposes. 

The lens used to photograph Paris Dialogue consists of a small magnifying glass from a 99-cent store. It measures less than one inch in diameter and is held in place with an extension tube, a drilled out body cap, and black electrical tape. The glass casts an image from just one inch from the Nikon FM2n mount and has a focal length of 70mm. Without an aperture control, Yip photographs on print film for the exposure latitude. The tape provides just enough give to adjust focus, though there is no specific focusing mechanism. 

The success of the 99-cent store magnifying glass prompted Yip to purchase a large stack for future lenses. Though he continues to make lenses from other random optical elements, he always comes back to this device for its small size and ease of portability. As Yip states, “it all came together in a perfectly imperfect way.”

View more of Yip’s work on his website.

Have you made or modified your own photographic equipment? Let us know at info@donttakepictures.com.