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What do you get when you combine expired photographic paper, a large format camera, and the blazing sun?

5/26/2013 ISO 1200 Magazine 1 Comments

Watch San Francisco based-photographer, Chris McCaw as he answers the above question and discusses his photographic project, Sunburn. Ten years ago (time flies!), McCaw inadvertently created a whole new technique and approach to photography that has since garnered him worldwide exhibitions, an Andy Warhol Foundation grant, and acquisition into numerous museum collections.

from Sunburn | via

With a medium over a century old, that’s not an easy thing to do! He called this new technique "sunburn" - McCaw creates images by allowing the sun to burn its path onto a paper negative during a long exposure, using the camera as a tool for both creation and destruction.

What sets McCaw apart from his peers is his ability to be inventive and unique, while mastering the craft. What began as a love for photography and being known for his exquisite platinum/palladium prints, led to an uncharted path. He took a medium in throes of technological change with the advancements of digital cameras and went back to the basics.

Photography as a word means ‘to write with light’, which is exactly what McCaw has done. It took years to figure out which papers ‘burn’ best, which lenses help speed up or slow down the process, and how many different ways he could reinterpret one idea. Most often, the sun burns so hot, it leaves a hole in the paper where it has traced.

The results are one-of-a-kind images that have been made with view cameras ranging from 4x5 inch to 30x40 inch in places throughout the Western Hemisphere from the Artic Circle to the Galapagos.

McCaw is truly one of the most innovative photographers of our time.

Chris McCaw´s DIY Cameras and interview:

Image via via

 You build your own cameras.  How did you get started? ( by Anne Kelly -

Chris McCaw: Building my own camera was a really liberating process as a photographer. Sometimes you get into that rut of having big dreams of owning high-end camera gear. The reality is that if you use your imagination and a practical sense of what you want to accomplish, you can do most anything. I feel confident that I can pretty much make any camera I need (I'm currently up to 30x40" mounted on a garden wagon). I also just made one on the base of a wheelchair to hold a 125 lb aerial camera lens!
Via facebook

The wheelchair camera (my friends call it 'the sad robot') was just built last month. So far it is only an 8x10" camera, but it has a 600mm f/3.5 lens that projects an image about 16x20". I was told the lens came off a U2 spy plane -- it is a beast. I use a car jack to raise and lower the lens. I even needed to get a handicap ramp to get it into the van! ( interview via  )

Visit his website at

Text, image and video via  ( Thanks Amandine!)


Oh my! He is indeed very creative. So artistic! But what inspired him to come up with such amazing idea? Will there be a specific time of the day that he will do this?