Some Assembly Required: Matt Abelson

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

Hexomniscope camera

Matt Abelson, Bolyston, Massachusetts

We often think of cameras as boxes that produce square or rectangular images. But Matt Abelson, a photographer partial to panoramic cameras and the long and narrow photographs they record, chose to create his elongated rectangular photographs from a cylindrical camera. Brining new meaning to “thinking outside of the box,” Abelson took on the challenge of creating a pinhole camera modeled after one he had seen, opting to modify it for 120mm film instead of paper negatives.

The resulting camera is dubbed the Hexomniscope and is constructed from machined aluminum that is black anodized. The initial Hexomniscope took 6-9 months to complete. Following its success, Abelson built a run of 25 cameras, which took an additional 6-9 months. To avoid capturing himself in the images, Abelson designed the shutters to turn on and off independently of one another. With this feature, one shutter release exposes half of the image, allowing the photographer to step to the opposite side of the camera and expose the other half of the image.

The photographs are delightfully complex 360-degree panoramas (6 x 17cm on 120mm film). Each photograph is comprised of six separate exposures that fade into each other, making it difficult to distinguish where one frame ends and another begins. Compressing a circular view into a straight line creates  a beautiful distortion of space, while the independent shutters allow for one photograph to record multiple moments in time.

Rollercoaster, made with Hexomniscope

View more of Abelson’s work on his website.

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