His latest project was on a slightly larger scale than something you’d find in a supermarket or a toy shop. In fact, it was about the same size as a supermarket or a toy shop, and involved turning the 44th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper into a camera for a charity commission. “That was an amazing phone call!” he laughs. “I told them I could do it in any old space, I’d just need a little bit more gaffa tape…”
Tasked with transforming a Park Avenue office floor into a working camera, Brendan applied the principles he uses for all his other cameras, adapting them to a much greater space. “We shot onto large 50-inch-wide and 4×8-foot sheets from rolls of photographic paper,” he says. “We were making these giant paper negatives, then placing them on top of another piece of paper and squeezing them together, then getting people to wave their iPhone torches over as a rudimentary enlarger. It was quite lo-fi, but the negatives are amazing.”
As well as this, Brendan also explored the use of direct positive paper, which involved using a large lens capturing straight onto the paper, meaning there was no need for a negative or an enlarger. “There’s just something great about this particular combination of the lens and the paper, because there’s no enlargement,” says Brendan. “The details are amazing, you can read the number plates of cars on the street 40-odd floors below. It’s weird because it kind of renders more information than you can see with the human eye. It’s almost as if you took 1,000 macro pictures and put them together on a grid, bringing lots of really detailed images together into one.”
The sheer audacity of the project can be perfectly illustrated by the fact that the paper was far too large to use existing darkroom materials with. “I had to make everything myself, and I had to get the materials specially made, because you just can’t buy things like that in hardware shops,” he says.
Working at this scale may have made things tricky to build, but the benefits were numerous, not least from an education perspective. Let’s be honest, what better place is there to learn photography than sitting inside a camera? “They are powerful as a teaching tool, especially when demonstrating the relationship between aperture and shutter speeds,” he says. “It can be quite hard to get your head around, but in this case you can actually see the light changing or the depth of field.”