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Saskatoon man makes 'big, ugly' camera from scratch

Rick Retzlaff builds custom cameras, and two of his creations are featured in Photographic Phantasmagoria, an exhibition running at the Saskatchewan Craft Council.

'It’s a big, ugly thing and my kids used to refuse to go with me when I’d go and take pictures.'

Rick Retzlaff's Gone was created in 2005 with his large format camera. (Saskatchewan Craft Council)

You would need a pretty big pocket to fit this camera built by Saskatoon man Rick Retzlaff.

Retzlaff builds his own unique cameras from scratch — two of which are featured in Photographic Phantasmagoria, an exhibition running at the Saskatchewan Craft Council.

"I'm an engineer by trade but I like to work with historic and alternative process photography," said Retzlaff.

"I can never buy any of the equipment that I need to use, because of the odd processes that I use and so [I'm] really forced to build it." 

A large custom camera built by Rick Retzlaff is featured in Photographic Phantasmagoria, an exhibition running at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. (Saskatchewan Craft Council)

Ten years ago, he built a giant camera to fulfill the need to create a very large negative.

"It's made out of primarily Baltic Birch plywood from Rona and put together with a lot of glue and a lot of tape," he explained.

"It's a big, ugly thing and my kids used to refuse to go with me when I'd go and take pictures. [They'd say], 'Dad, it's so embarrassing!' But if you're doing something embarrassing, that's probably an indication that you're doing something right, right?"

Retzlaff said it can take a full day to take one picture with his massive creation.

"I used to go out in the winter and I used to pull it behind a toboggan because it's so big and heavy. So, I'd go out with a toboggan, which is kind of sad, but that's how you get it out."

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