What's the thing about toy cameras that appeals to you?
The idea is so basic. All that's going on is light, the lens and the film. I really like the idea of zigging while everybody else is zagging. ... I enjoy being a reverse snob in all kinds of areas. I take perverse pleasure in being able to use a $15 camera to take a picture that an acquaintance using a $10,000 digital probably couldn't get.
What makes the pictures from toy cameras so special?
The surprise element. Normally, people who have done photography for a long time know exactly what they're going to get before they push the shutter button. We're taught to visualize (our photographs). With a toy camera, you can't do that. A toy camera will surprise you, whether you want it to or not. Sometimes, it's disappointing. Sometimes, it's a revelation.
Tell me about a toy-camera revelation you've had.
One example that's in the show at Centric: There's a print of a picture I snapped of some metal flowers at a crafts fair. I was attracted to them because of their color. When I got the pictures back, I started looking at them, and instead of a picture of metal flowers, it appeared to be more of a photo of flowers in the foreground and ... like an elves' village (in the background). It seemed to create a non-Earthly environment, sort of a fantasy environment I didn't even see. Another example is a photo of a statue of St. Francis at San Xavier Mission (a version of which is shown here). When I took the picture, I expected to get a nice picture of the statue with a nice texture on the statue. When I got it back, because of a strange and unpredictable light leak, a huge halo appeared behind St. Francis' head. That kind of made the shot.
How did this show come about?
Myself and Ed Stiles had been taking pictures (with toy cameras) together for years. We would frequently bring our negatives or slides into Centric for processing. Richard (McBain), the owner, would give us no end of grief for the kinds of strange pictures we were talking with these cheap, plastic cameras. ... We said, "How about we do a show in your store?" He said, "Yeah, right." Then, he said, "Sure." We got together with a handful of other people we knew were doing toy-camera photography to assemble the show.
Where could somebody get a toy camera if they were so inclined?
The main place that sells them in the West is Freestyle Photographic Supplies in Los Angeles. And if you'd like, you can call the Center for Creative Photography's gift shop to see if they have them; sometimes, they do.