For the past couple of months, the artist and designer Kelli Anderson has been searching for the right sequence of cuts and folds to turn a piece of paper into a camera.

Specifically, she wanted to make a working camera within an educational pop-up book—one that connects the dots between design and science / structure and function.

Happy to report: it is finally real! The final book explains —and actively demonstrates—how a structure as humble as a folded piece of paper can tap into the intrinsic properties of light to produce a photograph.


As far as 1800’s tech goes, Pinhole Photography is a great example of material acting as more than the sum of its parts.

In previous posts, we have already talked about simplicity for building a homemade pinhole camera. All that you need is a lightproof box with a hole in the front. Mini-hangtag safety pins yield a perfect 0.3–0.4 mm hole. And some light-sensitive material loaded in the back.

The results achieved by such humble means is a feat of true cosmic piggybacking—showing that objects we make (even from the most lo-fi materials) can be structured to tap into impressive forces at play in our world.

The convex surface of the lens of a normal camera merges light beams from varying angles to produce focus at the focal point.

A lens less camera-as is the case of the as is the case of the pinhole-accepts light through a single hole in a flat plane (from a single angle.)

Because of this, there are no mechanics to “focus” a pinhole camera. It is a projection from a single beam, much like a camera obscura. The result is that objects near the camera and objects far away from the camera have the same exact amount of focus.

The book itself comes with detailed instructions. And a starter pack of B/W Ilford photo paper (any 4×5” or smaller light-sensitive material can be used).

The reason why a hole in a lightproof box can perform a function similar to real photographic equipment is due to light’s intrinsic tendencies.

Light steadfastly moves in a perfectly straight line. In a normal environment, light beams bounce around ambient. Their cacophony of trajectories eager to fog a piece of photographic paper with a muddy multitude of images.

For the past few years, Kelli has been trying to better understand forces at play in the analog world through a process of subtraction. To do this, she has been disassembling everyday tools. Stripping off their normal interface. And reducing them down to their functional minimums.

Detailed Instructions On How To Use The Book As A Camera

  • Open the book and lock the tabs to open fully. Achieving this specific focal length is important—the tabs also help to keep the book flat, rigid and hold steady. Be sure to unlock those tabs before closing again! When bent backwards, they lose their functionality.
  • Insert photo paper in total darkness. Load a sheet of paper from the lightproof sleeve into the back envelope of the camera. The shiny-feeling side faces toward the lens. Close the book until it’s ready for use to avoid stray light.
  • To take a photo, place the open book on a surface where it will sit motionless. Lift the shooter to expose the film, lowering when the desired duration of time has elapsed. Close the book.
  • Develop your photographic negative.
  • Now you only have to invert the image from negative to positive and correct it.

You can know more about Kelli Anderson and all her projects on her official blog:


You may also be interested in:

NOPO: Handcraft Pinhole Cameras

FOTOLATERAS: They Don´t Shoot Photos, They “Cook” Photos

Pinhole Photography: What It Is And How You Can Do It

How To Create Your Own Pinhole Camera At Home

How To Develop Your Pinhole Photos By Yourself