Still life #10: Bell & Howell 8mm movie camera


This is a triptych of a Bell & Howell Zoomatic 8mm movie camera. It was first introduced in about 1960. I purchased this camera at a rummage sale with the intention of painting it. Later, I found out that this model was the same as one used by Abraham Zapruder when he inadvertently filmed the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, 1963.

Originally, I wanted to paint a Bolex movie camera similar to the one used by Andy Warhol, but the ones I found were quite pricy or not quite right. With its simple yet bold design and its part in history the Bell & Howell is quite interesting in its own right.

Finding a background that worked well was quite a process. Three other color/design choices lie behind the current one. Eventually, it occurred to me to use the Munsell grey scale. I’m not sure exactly why, but it somehow works. Maybe because the camera shapes are very robust and the touches of color on the shiny metal bits are strong enough, simple shades of grey look good. I feel that using color in the background would have unbalanced the composition and drawn attention away from the camera. I also like the association of the Munsell scale with visual art and the indirect reference to black and white film which was very commonly used when this camera was popular.

Execution wise, the hardest part was making and keeping all those damn circles! Compasses are great and they help, but, in the end, when faced with blending the circles with their backgrounds, you are on your own. I hope to avoid doing such tedious work for the next little while.

More paintings here!


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