There are few things trendier right now than ersatz retro pictures snapped via iPhone and plastered across Facebook, sporting the old film look, the pinhole camera vignette edges — all done by app. So when a group of German garbage collectors started the Trashcam Project to convert trash bins into giant (real!) pinhole cameras to shoot images of the city of Hamburg, it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Pinhole cameras are perhaps the most primitive of photographic devices. They consist of a light-tight box (or light-tight bin as the case may be) with a hole on one end. The light of the image streams through the pinhole and is captured on a piece of film or photographic paper inside of the box. No lens, no sensors, no focusing — just light and film.

Developed by garbage collectors Werner Bünning, Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann and others from the Hamburg Sanitation department (as well as the technical expertise of photographer Matthias Hewing), the Trashcam Project chronicles the city through the eyes of the 1,100-liter trash bins, albeit abetted by the men who work to keep the city clean. No vintage-camera app required.

The results are nothing short of lovely.

Pinhole camera trash bin

Garbageman Hans-Dieter Braatz, shown above, takes a picture with one of the trash bin cameras. (Photo: Mirko Derpmann)

Dom Hamburg

The fun fair "Dom" in Hamburg photographed with a garbage container by Bernd Leguttky, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on a 106x80 cm sheet of Ilford Multigrade with 10 minutes exposure time.

Rickmer Rickmers

The tall ship Rickmer Rickmers in Hamburg photographed with a garbage container by Werner Bünning, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on a 106x80 cm sheet of Ilford Multigrade with 40 minutes exposure time.

Kirche Altenwerder

The old church in Hamburg Altenwerder photographed with a garbage container by Hans-Peter Strahl, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on a 106x80 cm sheet of Ilford Multigrade with 45 minutes exposure time. The church is now standing in the middle of an industrial agglomeration; the parish has vanished. 

Katherinenfleet

The Katharinenfleet in Hamburg photographed with a garbage container by Werner Bünning, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on a 106x80 cm sheet of Ilford Multigrade with 30 minutes exposure time.

The harbor of Harburg which is a part of Hamburg. There must have been a reflection in the foreground or a lightleak causing the foggy effect. Taken by Christoph Blaschke, Mirko Derpmann, Peter Hermann Schammer and Kai Erik Haake with garbage container camera; 15 minutes exposure time on a quiet day.


Marco Polo Tower

The Marco Polo Tower photographed with garbage container by Michael Pfohlmann, Christoph Blaschke and Mirko Derpmann. Shot on Ilford Multigrade with 10 minutes exposure time.

For more pinhole images as well as photos of the sanitation workers/artist, visit the Trashcam Project on Flickr.

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