Enter into a darkroom and make a small round hole in the window shade that looks out onto a bright outside scene. Hold a piece of translucent paper 6-12 inches from the hole and you will see what is outside the window. This optical phenomenon, which has been known since ancient times, provides the basis for making pinhole (camera) photographs. Wayne Martin Belger’s philosophical approach to his subjects utilizes this phenomenon to build fantastical handmade pinhole cameras, which he then operates to create his images.
Robert Hirsch: How did you get involved in photography?
Wayne Martin Belger: In the mid-1990s a good friend, who is an automotive photographer, was working with a flimsy pinhole camera so I made him one out of aircraft aluminum and stainless steel. And because all the tools I make are extensions of myself, it also had insects crawling out of keyholes and a Pablo Neruda poem embossed on top. I took it out for a test and fell in love with the process.
RH: What key life event has influenced your outlook?
WMB: Growing up I loved being a twin. The problem was I didn’t have a twin. In my 20s, I had a series of bizarre accidents, which led my family to get me a reading from a Santeria Priest. He told me my twin brother was trying to bring me into his world because twins are one. I informed my mom about my evil twin and she told me I was a twin, but I was the only live birth. The priest then did a ceremony to put my twin to rest, after which my strange accidents stopped. But so did a view or feeling about the world that had been a part of my everyday world. However, this experience opened me up to a deeper sense of life’s possibilities− that going down the rabbit hole of your personal quest for adventure into the unknown never really ends.
RH: How has religion affected the way you work?
WMB: When I was a child the Catholic Mass was in Latin. I had no idea what was going on, so I relied on visual input for the communications. The priest would have gold and silver objects designed to provide a link between himself, his audience and his subject: Christ. Without knowing it, I was doing the same thing in my work. I have always made altars—shrines that are tools I employ to commune with a desired subject. The cameras I make do the same thing.
RH: How would you describe what you do?
WMB: I make subject-specific cameras and installations, which are produced for and from the subject I wish to be in communion with.