January 29, 2006

The Scanner Photography Project

Duct tape + a cardboard box + a cheap flatbed scanner = the surreal images of The Scanner Photography Project. Artist Michael Golembewski has combined a scanner with a large-format camera to produce a device that can mix still and moving elements into a single frame, producing some occasionally bizarre results. (Put that in your Lens Baby and smoke it.)
I especially like the molten vehicle shots, and the animation gallery shows how the camera makes a nice British bus ride resemble some kind of German Expressionist nightmare.
[Thanks to Adobe Edinburgh’s David Metzger for the link.]

Posted by John Nack at 4:28 PM on January 29, 2006


  • ballet photographer — 6:06 PM on March 29, 2006

    I can’t get that link to work

  • Dustin Koop — 7:50 PM on April 10, 2006

    Do you know if he has a new website, since his seem to be no longer running?
    [I’m afraid not. Hopefully its absence is just temporary. –J.]

  • John Van Horn — 2:15 PM on April 18, 2006

    If you do a search for The Scanner Photography Project, you can find pieces of it on other sites and may even find it mirrored. I think it is a great piece of work and have built a scanner camera based on the information from the original site (I luckily printed out some pages.). My work to date can be seen on one of my sites: http://johnvanhornphoto.com/lgformatdigitalphotography/Introduction.html
    [Cool–thanks for the link, John. –J.]

  • morisawa — 8:48 AM on June 23, 2006

    I am collecting photographs in the building of Japan by the hobby. Therefore, it is interested in such a project very much, and it says as it looks forward to the activity in the future.

  • Shaun Inman — 8:32 PM on October 03, 2006

    I just found out this is actually a friend of mine’s roommate. Here’s an active mirror of the site. Amazing stuff.
    [Excellent–thanks for the link! –J.]

  • Benji — 2:56 PM on October 19, 2006

    So does anyone have a nice helpful guide in building one. I have an old scanner I haven’t used in a long time and I’d like to set it up for this.

  • Pete Ravioli — 3:46 PM on December 25, 2006

    I’ve been doing this for a few years now, but I’ve gotten some different results that resulted in a partial shelving of my project. I was using an Astra 2000 scanner which had a little plug on the light module so I could disable it easily just by popping off the cover and disconnecting the light. But the scanner optics and the 8 x 10 camera lens optics interact in a way that produces a vignetted image. I tried a longer lens, but there wasn’t a substantial improvement. I also tried putting a peice of paper on the scanner glass for the lens to ‘project’ onto but that didn’t really work out too well either.
    I thought I had invented the whole idea and was keeping it carefully under my hat, until I discovered that people were doing similar time lapse kinds of photos (on a single peice of film) on 8 x 10 cameras with a modified dark slide with a slot cut in it. The slot could be very slowly passed over the film to produce all sorts of unnatural looking things in natural environments.
    Then in the 60s or so, someone did a scanning version using a Xerox machine (again with the light disabled) using a sort of snorkel apparatus that was apparently available from somebody at Xerox. So we here in 2006 or 07 are actually pretty late in the game. I’ve seen the film versions of this style of photography (easily 50 years old) but have yet to find any solid info on any of the Xerox stuff.
    The film photographer’s name escapes me at the moment, but if I think of it, I’ll come back and post it.
    Needless to say I was crestfallen that my ‘invention’ had already been thought of and executed by someone who is probably at least an octegenarian by now.
    Anyway, have fun. It is some pretty far out stuff, and I enjoyed doing it.
    PS If anyone has any ideas about how I can overcome my vignetting problem (maybe I should be using a different scanner?), I’d like to know how it was done. That shot of the bus I found on Google Images Search is pretty cool looking, and it seems to be well exposed all the way to the corners.
    [Interesting stuff, Pete. Thanks for sharing these details. –J.]

  • Scott Lerman — 10:31 AM on January 30, 2007

    The vignetting is due to the scanner imaging sensor being recessed in the mechanism. You are getting a shadow as you move more off center optically. On Canon Lide scanners I’ve removed most of the plastic housing and lens array to make it work.

  • Steven Heddle — 1:48 AM on March 05, 2007

    The link to the scannerphotography.com mirror given above does not work, but thanks to archive.org you can find it all here:
    It’s good stuff!
    – Steven
    [Excellent–thanks for the tip. –J.]

  • John Van Horn — 11:46 AM on March 22, 2007

    The Scanner Photography Project fascinated a lot of people with the potential of constructing a large format digital camera from an inexpensive flatbed scanner. Michael Golembewski’s web site along with his explanations and excellent examples of photographs produced by his cameras inspired some of us to build our own cameras. It was a lot of fun and I have now adapted two of my view cameras to allow me to take photographs with this technique and technology.
    However there are some additional pieces to the puzzle of scanner photography, which were recently forwarded to me that I would like to share. One of the problems relative to these cameras is the digital artifacts and noise that appear in the photographs. That is why you can build your own camera for a couple hundred dollars or less vs. buying a large format digital back from Betterlight which works on basically the same principle for considerably more (Their latest and I believe highest resolution unit was recently introduced at $23,000.), or so it appeared.
    I have posted links to two papers, the first by Shuzhen Wang and Wolfgang Heidrich, The Design of an Inexpensive Very High Resolution Scan Camera System, and an earlier paper by Shuzhen Wang, An Inexpensive, High Resolution Scan Camera, that are very interesting along with some information on my latest camera conversion at:
    I hope you find this interesting and someone can indeed build an inexpensive large format scanner camera for all of us who can’t afford a professional unit.
    [Thanks for all the info, John. I look forward to checking out the link & the papers. –J.]

  • Zoran Zorkic — 3:49 AM on December 29, 2007

    You can find Golembewski’s site here: golembewski.awardspace.com
    [Cool, thanks! –J.]

  • Vinc — 1:10 AM on May 24, 2008

    There are more ways to use a flatbed scanner. Check out this article:

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