Toss a Camera

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Admit it: Sometimes abstract art makes you think that the artist merely threw a few buckets of paint on a canvas. Or that a photographer simply tossed a camera into the air and captured random images.

Well, in some cases, that is exactly what's done -- at least with photography, and I have my suspicions about some paintings. The photographic technique is called camera tossing, and it's become a way to show off extraordinary views of ordinary objects -- or at least ordinary light sources.

The basics of camera tossing are simple: Set a camera to a longer exposure time, press the shutter button and throw the camera a few feet in the air. Oh yeah, it's usually good to then catch the camera.

"The best thing about camera tossing is that you can pretty much toss your camera anywhere, and get incredible results," said Tiffany Johnson, a 26-year-old who lives in Washington state and showcases her tossing pictures on Flickr.com. "And you never get the same picture twice."

Ryan Gallagher, 28, is on the forefront of the camera-toss craze. The Austin, Tex., theater technician has posted more than 2,000 photos on Flickr.com and has started a blog for tossing fans. His "exercise in chance photography" produces abstract images that are beautiful and intriguing, familiar yet often undecipherable.

Johnson is among many online users who was influenced by Gallagher's success. Her own experiments also have drawn attention.

"Be prepared for strange looks from others if you plan to do this out in public," she wrote in an e-mail interview. "Most people aren't accustomed to photographers just throwing their camera around, so you might find yourself receiving a lot of attention from curious bystanders."

Thomas Lewis, 25, an IT professional in Wilmslow, England, is used to the odd looks he gets. He sees camera tossing as being part art and part performance art.

"I'm never sure which I prefer -- the process of creating the photos or the results themselves. I always find the photographs to be fascinating, and I love the smooth fluid lines which result from the unrestrained movement of the camera through the air," Lewis wrote in an e-mail exchange. "I used to think it was just something fun to do, but looking at some of them I don't see why they couldn't be considered art; I've seen worse in the Tate Modern."

Scott Moore


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