Some Assembly Required: Heather Oelklaus’ Russian Nesting Doll Cameras

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

Russian nesting dolls as pinhole cameras.

Heather Oelklaus, Colorado Springs, CO

While preparing for her 2015 solo exhibition Unconventional Camera at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, photographer Heather Oelklaus found a set of traditional Russian nesting dolls at a local antique store.

Finding the dolls conjured memories of her childhood spent playing with her Great Grandmother’s set nesting dolls. To create her piece titled “Be A Doll,” Oelklaus turned each of the dolls into a pinhole camera. As an artist, Oelklaus frequently finds inspiration for her photographs in the construction of the cameras with which they are made (see our previous feature on her bell hop trolley camera), marrying process and content. Fitting each doll with a single pinhole ranging from f169 to f85 and Ilford pearl RC paper, Oelklaus photographed her collection of glass containers in the shape of humans and animals. Following the incremental change in the dolls’ sizes, the smallest pinhole nesting doll was used to photograph the smallest glass figurine and the largest doll photographed the largest figurine—one humanoid container making photographs of other humanoid containers.   

Be A Doll

View more of Oelklaus’ work on her website.

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