The Big Picture

Wooden box camera artist

Luis Maldonado is the last remaining photographer in the main square of the Chilean capital still using a wooden box camera. The box camera's mechanism is simple: light enters through a lens and the photographic paper inside it captures a negative image of the subject. I know that you have to eat and live. But if it were up to me, I'd only be doing box photos. It's what fills me up," he said. "I'd be empty without the box."--By Associated Press
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Photographer Luis Maldonado talks to a client next to his old wooden box camera in Plaza de Armas of Santiago, Chile. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A family having their portrait taken fills the viewfinder of Luis Maldonado's old wooden old box camera, during a fair marking Independence Day in Santiago. At about $7.50 per portrait, a box camera photograph costs more than twice as much as the $3 charged for a digital one. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Luis Maldonado's photo album holds images of his trip to Venice, at his home in Santiago, Chile. He remains proud of the work he did at the 2003 Venice Biennale in an exhibit about traditional Chilean art forms by artist Eugenia Vargas, using his box camera to photograph people who lined up to have their portraits taken. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A woman looks through the viewfinder of the old wooden box camera used by photographer Luis Maldonado during a fair marking Independence Day in Santiago, Chile. Chile's box photographers union had more than 5,000 members by 1942, but that number plunged to about 300 by 1972, according to Chilean historian Octavio Cornejo. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Luis Maldonado shows negatives made by his grandfather, father or uncle, using this old wooden box camera, at his home in Santiago, Chile. The first wooden box camera arrived in Chile in 1911 and seven years later there were about 300 box photographers in the country, according to Chilean historian Octavio Cornejo. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Photographer Luis Maldonado poses for a portrait with his old wooden box camera as he waits for clients who want their portrait taken at a fair in Santiago, Chile. "I know that you have to eat and live. But if it were up to me, I'd only be doing box photos. It's what fills me up," he said. "I'd be empty without the box." (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A dog slows down to timidly check out a fake horse, used as a prop by photographer Luis Maldonado in Santiago, Chile. Maldonado stopped by his friend's home to pick this horse up, along with other props, ahead of an annual fair where he usually has his best day of business taking portraits with his old wooden box camera. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A girl getting her portrait made on a stuffed horse fills the viewfinder of Luis Maldonado's old wooden box camera, during a fair marking Independence Day in Santiago, Chile. Maldonado believes box photography could be revived in Chile and wants to help raise awareness about the art form. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A family having their portrait taken fills the viewfinder of Luis Maldonado's old wooden old box camera, during a fair marking Independence Day in Santiago, Chile. The box camera's mechanism is simple: light enters through a lens and the photographic paper inside it captures a negative image of the subject photographed. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Luis Maldonado prepares his old wooden box camera at a fair in Santiago, Chile. Maldonado is the last remaining photographer in the main square of the Chilean capital still using a wooden box camera. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Luis Maldonado rinses a freshly developed portrait of a girl taken with his old wooden box camera during a fair marking Independence Day in Santiago, Chile. "While I take one photo, my colleagues take 10," Maldonado said of other photographers who take digital photos at downtown Santiago's Plaza de Armas. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Luis Maldonado descends the stairs after putting away his old wooden box camera in Santiago, Chile. Maldonado comes from a family of box camera photographers that includes his grandfather, father and an uncle. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Luis Maldonado waits for clients by his old wooden box camera in Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. Clients are scarce, with days, even weeks, passing before someone asks him to create a portrait with the old-fashioned camera. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A portrait lays in fixer as it's developed inside Luis Maldonado's old wooden box camera in Santiago, Chile. The box works both as a camera and a photo lab. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Plastic birds sit on the frame of Luis Maldonado's old wooden box camera in Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile. Maldonado uses the bird to call clients' attention when taking their portraits. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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A group of friends fill the viewfinder of Luis Maldonado's old wooden old box camera, during a fair marking Independence Day in Santiago, Chile. The image making process lasts about 20 minutes, resulting in a vintage-looking image. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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Photographer Luis Maldonado carries a prop to a fair where he will set up his old wooden box camera and take clients' portraits in Santiago, Chile. "You need to live and also do the things you like in life," Maldonado said, smiling. "And I do what I like ... It's beautiful work, it's nostalgic and it's a part of me. I carry it in my veins." (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)
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