He has been showing his work since 2001 and I am just now hearing about artist Wayne Martin Belger.* Belger takes photographs with pinhole cameras that he crafts to make specific images, then incorporates as part of the artwork. In the example above, he designed his "Third Eye Camera" to study the beauty of decay, using the 150-year-old skull of a 13-year-old girl. Outfitting it with aluminium, titanium, brass, silver, and gemstones, he drilled an aperture in the forehead through which light enters to expose the film inside. With this unique 4"x5" camera (1st image, 360° and other views here) he took photographs entitled "Two Hearts" and "San Francisco" (2nd image) and exhibits the camera and prints as an installation (3rd image). A camera called "Yama" (see Belger with it here), made from the 500-year-old skull of a Tibetan monk, and the images exposed through its eye sockets were similarly exhibited and Louisiana blogger Chris Jay called the result "show-stoppingly confrontational, yet undeniably beautiful."
"Third Eye" and "Yama" are 2 of 11 cameras Belger has made so far. His "9/11" camera - which is made of aircraft aluminum and incorporates pages from the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah in addition to a piece of metal from the South Tower of the World Trade Center - was designed to capture images of religious figures. His "Deer" camera fuses metal, including bullet shells, to antlers "to study the core ritual of the hunt and man's arrogant separation from Nature." And Belger's "Heart" camera, encapsulating a preserved infant's heart (discovered among items abandoned by a medical supply house), was made to explore the relationship between expectant mothers and their soon-to-be-born children and the artist's relationship with his twin brother who died at birth.
California journalist Lisa Derrick describes, "The process begins with Belger first desiring to explore and relate to a concept and envisioning the photographs, then crafting a camera as the portal into the subject. He collects artifacts, relics and metals, and painstakingly builds the device with parts he carefully machines, the construction itself a form of meditation on and communion with the concepts and images, much like icon painters who first pray and meditate, then carefully prepare the surface, blend the tempera and delicately layer the colors." The comparison to the past is apt, since Belger credits the ubiquity of today's digital cameras with helping elevate the status of analog photograph as a fine art.
*With thanks to longtime follower Antler!