Some Assembly Required: Chuck Baker

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

One Way Out, made with enlarger camera

Chuck Baker, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

With the decline of traditional darkroom printing, enlargers are finding their way into flea markets and second hand stores, relics of a different time. Photographer Charles Baker comes across many of these discarded enlargers when combing through these shops in search of materials with which to build photographic equipment. Over the past 40 years Baker has been building his own cameras with a fondness for materials destined for the trash. After being gifted a beautifully crafted homemade 20x24” camera, he began to consider its properties and how he could convert one of his many enlargers into a smaller version.

Using an old Czech-made Meopta designed for 35mm film, Baker removed the screws that held the bellows mechanism to the rest of the enlarger, leaving only the bellows. This particular enlarger model has bellows that are one piece with the rack and pinion focusing mechanism, making for a smoother conversion process. Baker attached a 5x7” hardwood frame to the bellows assembly which serves as the film plane. When the camera is in use, Baker focuses the image with translucent tape over the glass, noting the camera’s position. He then replaces it with clear glass that holds the paper for exposure. The enlarger takes a135mm f/4.5 enlarger lens. Without a shutter, Baker simply removes the lens cap for the duration of the exposure.  

The 5x7” prints are made with paper negatives which allow for burning and dodging the image during processing. The resulting images are soft focus, giving them a dreamlike quality. In a mere 90 minutes, Baker found a new way for this equipment to once again create photographic images.

Enlarger camera

View more of Baker’s work on his website.

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