The Elephant Trap

The Elephant Trap

This project is a collaboration with Jason Scott Tilley of Photo Archive Miners and cabinet maker Jamie Hubbard.

The Elephant Trap Camera is named after Jason Scott Tilley’s grandpa Bert Scott’s nickname for large cameras as Elephant Traps. Bert Scott was a photographer in India at the time of partition. His flippant nickname for huge devices commonly used by old-fashioned photographers in India at the time he was working references Constance Talbot’s name for her husband’s small early cameras as Mousetraps.

It is a unique large public engagement device that functions as a camera and a darkroom. It’s scale and bright colouring stop people on the street to engage them with the process of having a portrait made and provide a spark for unexpected encounters and conversations. The Elephant Trap camera is designed after Afghan Box Cameras or ‘kamra-e-faoree.’ It also takes part of the design from Frederick Scott Archer’s 1853 Wet Plate Collodion camera which additionally functioned as a darkroom.

The Cooke and Cooke lens, found in Jo Gane’s garage and previously owned by Julian Henry Beck (see the JHB Archive project) carries Coventry heritage, having originally come from the portrait studio of Tayler bros in Hillfields. It throws a beautiful image, given the opportunity with the right lighting and composition.

The Elephant Trap was used in Willenhall, Coventry by Jo Gane and Jason Scott Tilley from September – January 2019 with performances by Mahendra Patel and a short film by Jonny Bark. We are currently writing more projects around it.

This project is supported using public funding from Arts Council England.