The memorable camera

In 2015 I was invited to join a group of photographers to work on a project called Post Scriptum Camera curated by photographer Koos Breukel and curator Rose Ineke van Kalsbeek. Thirty selected photographers were offered a historical camera, used by an eminent photographer or prominent individual in the past, and donated to the historical camera collection of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. I was offered the honorable Kodak Panorama produced in 1910, donated to the collection by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and most probably used by her mother Queen Wilhelmina. My inspiration was Wilhelmina, the years of colonialism, her powerful feminist image during the war years and an archival image of her on a horse in the company of an all male army.

Together with my intern Steven van Eck from St Joost School of Fine Arts, a lover of analog techniques, we set out to explore this ancient camera and actually managed to make a small series in my studio in Amsterdam. In between loading and developing in our portable darkroom and actually taking each photograph there was so much time, something we have forgotten or never even experienced. During the waiting we improvised and created scenes with the digital to prepare for that single shot with the Panorama. Roxy a professional hiphop dancer was pleased to collaborate with me. As a Suriname-Dutch woman, she held a love for Queen Wilhelmina based on what she has learned at school, before the independence where the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the dream everybody longed for. It was truly a photographic adventure, a journey through time. This series of images have yet to be shown together. The camera inside was an inspiring theatrical object, like an empty stage where everything can still happen. I even discovered a ‘sundown’ where the counter used to be.

Special thanks to Barbara Duifjes, Merdan and Joost for their very special participation.

Diana Blok