Krappy Kamera Competition, 2021

Online: July 16 – August 8, 2021 

When I was asked to jury this year’s Krappy Kamera competition, I literally jumped for joy. I’d been wanting to jury this exhibition since its inception, such a lover of the toy camera am I. This love stemmed from my years of teaching the zone system. I would inevitably see students paralyzed, wondering which part of the scene was the zone III shadow. I forced my students to grab a Holga. I showed them where to tape for light leaks, and, after much resistance, they began photographing with freedom and abandon, no longer worried about exposure, just free to see and click the shutter.

In San Francisco we hosted our juried plastic camera show for a decade until RayKo’s closure in 2017. Happily, the Krappy Kamera Competition at Soho Photo Gallery marches on, and this year as the juror I reviewed all the incredible images that were submitted. Once again I got to revel in the creativity and the talent of these wielders of toy cameras. So many amazing photographs, dream-like, enchanting, otherworldly, pictures I wished I’d taken, pictures that squeezed my heart, pictures that made me rethink what a photograph could be, so many gifts in a year that needed more beauty, more possibilities, more rewards, more escapes.

Picking the winners was also no small feat. There were photographers whose work I knew and photographers whose work I’d never seen. It was exciting and agonizing to choose, but there was something about Jean Guy Lathuiliere’s tiny pyramids that reminded me of the first photographs, maybe a J. B. Greene albumen print, maybe a tintype of some civil war scene, maybe just a place that only he had been to and was revealing to us in a moment of weakness…or courage. And then Hope Kahn-Hoffman’s image, “Murmur” was one of several of hers that seemed to emerge from a subconscious dream. I wanted to select all of her images for the show and sit with them in another realm. Third place went to Adrienne Defendi for a surreal diptych of the sea where in one frame perhaps the white whale or a giant sunfish is about to surface and then in the next frame, it never happened. Perhaps it was just my imagination. I could have handed out honorable mentions like confetti, but found that Sharon Harris’ images transfixed me and I wondered at how all those tiny women got into that other universe. Cody Swanson’s image of blowing dandelion seeds was the wish I’d been waiting for and Michael Teresko’s wall with the varying shades of grey and the one missing brick seemed to sum up my current mood nicely.

Thanks to all the artists for taking me on this spectacular journey and congratulations one and all. I’m inspired to dust off one of my 9 Holga cameras, maybe the twin lens, and hit the trails.

Ann Jastrab, July 2021