All Photographs Copyright Michael Ernest Sweet
For some time now I've been working on a series of photographs taken with disposable cameras. It's called, well, "Michael Sweet's Disposable Camera". Part of the reason for that somewhat generic title is that the series really has no focus in terms of content. It is merely a series of photographs united by the fact that they were all shot with a disposable 35mm camera.
One of the initial draws to using a disposable camera is the freedom they allow. There is nothing to set or think about aside from the subject matter and composition. You cannot set shutter speeds or apertures or flash etc. You point and you shoot - the disposable camera is the ultimate point and shoot camera. Another plus to using a disposable is the lack of any shutter lag. You click and it just works. This is because there is no focusing. Everything is in focus (and not in focus) all at once. All of this really does add up to a tremendous amount of freedom for the photographer. Using a disposable camera is also a great opportunity to remind oneself that the camera is merely a tool. In the age of gear obsession, it's a good exercise to remind oneself that you can beat any camera into submission and make it your slave - that the best piece of gear is that 6 inches behind the camera.
I've always been a compact camera shooter. I shoot both digital and film, but always on a compact. They just work for me. I can always have my camera on me and it is never threatening to anyone. I often look like an amateur taking vacation photos and I like that look. It keeps me out of trouble. If I am shooting a model or doing more deliberate documentary work, the compact allows people to feel more at ease - it's just less intimidating and it reduces the barrier between the subject and the photographer. Given all of this, using a disposable is less strange or foreign for me than for many other photographers coming from more complicated equipment. Obviously there is a much greater jump between a 5D MII and a disposable than there is between an MJU II and a disposable. Still, I love to tear open a fresh disposable camera and hit the streets with nothing but 27 exposures. It's a wonderful liberating feeling.
This project has been under way for some time - off and on. It's by no means complete. However, I thought I'd take this opportunity to show some of the results thus far. The work may not be my best, it also may not be gallery worthy, but it is distinct. There is a feeling to these photographs that makes them unique. So the next time you are feeling down about your photography, grab a disposable and hit the streets. You never know what you might find. One thing is for sure, I guarantee you will have fun!