Take A Picture, Pass It On: The Disposable Memory Project

"Postal services are painfully unreliable," says Matthew Knight, creator of The Disposable Memory Project. "Oh, and don't take photos using a disposable camera indoors."

  • Camera 110: Handed over to Carol M. in Montecito, Calif. by Kirsty S., and travelled to Virginia via Mongolia, and then finished in Florida by Saina L.
    Hide caption
    Camera 110: Handed over to Carol M. in Montecito, Calif. by Kirsty S., and travelled to Virginia via Mongolia, and then finished in Florida by Saina L.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 97: Left in Lyme Regis, England, by Graham K., this camera travelled north to Yorkshire and finished up at RSPB Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve, being returned by Daphne P.
    Hide caption
    Camera 97: Left in Lyme Regis, England, by Graham K., this camera travelled north to Yorkshire and finished up at RSPB Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve, being returned by Daphne P.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 114: Left at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, State St., for Karen Sinsheimer, curator of photography by Kirsty S., and found and finished by Jenna W.
    Hide caption
    Camera 114: Left at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, State St., for Karen Sinsheimer, curator of photography by Kirsty S., and found and finished by Jenna W.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 150: Released by Adam W. at the Camelot Theme Park in England, and immediately found by Harley H. Then taken on to Preston and finished by Steve
    Hide caption
    Camera 150: Released by Adam W. at the Camelot Theme Park in England, and immediately found by Harley H. Then taken on to Preston and finished by Steve
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 308 : Released in Cornwall, England by Linda G. Returned on Nov 30th, 2010 by Linda G. from Fajara, Gambia.
    Hide caption
    Camera 308 : Released in Cornwall, England by Linda G. Returned on Nov 30th, 2010 by Linda G. from Fajara, Gambia.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 134: Created by Kolla R. in London, and then travelled on to South Africa
    Hide caption
    Camera 134: Created by Kolla R. in London, and then travelled on to South Africa
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 150: Released by Adam W. at the Camelot Theme Park in England, and immediately found by Harley H. Then taken on to Preston and finished by Steve
    Hide caption
    Camera 150: Released by Adam W. at the Camelot Theme Park in England, and immediately found by Harley H. Then taken on to Preston and finished by Steve
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 184: Dropped off at Narita Airport, Japan and found in Taiwan. Taken on to Shanghai, China and finished off by Ava.
    Hide caption
    Camera 184: Dropped off at Narita Airport, Japan and found in Taiwan. Taken on to Shanghai, China and finished off by Ava.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 210: Handed over in Carluccio's Covent Garden London by Kirsty S, and taken on to Cairns, Australia by Ben O.
    Hide caption
    Camera 210: Handed over in Carluccio's Covent Garden London by Kirsty S, and taken on to Cairns, Australia by Ben O.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 235: One of the 29 Lomotion Singapore cameras, and returned after travelling around the country.
    Hide caption
    Camera 235: One of the 29 Lomotion Singapore cameras, and returned after travelling around the country.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 246: Created by Serena W. in Manchester, and arrived and completed in Singapore with Liu Y.
    Hide caption
    Camera 246: Created by Serena W. in Manchester, and arrived and completed in Singapore with Liu Y.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 162: Sally R's cameras traveled out to the ice sheets of Greenland.
    Hide caption
    Camera 162: Sally R's cameras traveled out to the ice sheets of Greenland.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 59: Travelled around San Luis Obispo, Calif., after being dropped by Kris and Matt, and found by Brant and Craig at Cal Poly, then Jeff C. at Bubble Gum Alley.
    Hide caption
    Camera 59: Travelled around San Luis Obispo, Calif., after being dropped by Kris and Matt, and found by Brant and Craig at Cal Poly, then Jeff C. at Bubble Gum Alley.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 162: Another photo from Sally R's cameras on the ice sheets of Greenland.
    Hide caption
    Camera 162: Another photo from Sally R's cameras on the ice sheets of Greenland.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 210: Handed over in Carluccio's Covent Garden London by Kirsty S., and taken on to Cairns, Australia by Ben O.
    Hide caption
    Camera 210: Handed over in Carluccio's Covent Garden London by Kirsty S., and taken on to Cairns, Australia by Ben O.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project
  • Camera 47: We sent Nicky G. this camera, and it made its way to Cornwall via Thailand and Cambodia, returning as our third camera to be developed with a mix of wonderful Eastern and Western images.
    Hide caption
    Camera 47: We sent Nicky G. this camera, and it made its way to Cornwall via Thailand and Cambodia, returning as our third camera to be developed with a mix of wonderful Eastern and Western images.
    Courtesy of The Disposable Memory Project

1 of 16

View slideshow i

These are some of the things Knight has learned since 2008, when he dispatched his first disposable camera. It's a simple concept: Drop a camera somewhere with basic instructions and see where the wind takes it. If things go right, a person takes a photo and passes it on. And at the end, the camera makes its way back to the address written on the exterior and everyone is happy.

More than 400 cameras (and I'd estimate at least $2,000) later, to the "lessons learned" list, I might also offer: Don't send out a camera if you want to get it back. And if you do get it back, don't expect great photography. Only 30 of those 400-plus cameras have been returned.

A map from the project website shows the camera locations.

A map from the project website shows the camera locations. The Disposable Memory Project hide caption

itoggle caption The Disposable Memory Project

But of those survivors, some have had pretty awesome journeys. They've seen the South Pole, Greenland, Australia and Cambodia. And even if only a handful of decent photos make it back, it's still worth the effort for Knight.

"Most importantly," he says, "the majority of people on our planet are lovely, wonderful and interesting human beings, and capturing even only the smallest portions of their life is, for me, endlessly inspiring and fascinating."

This photo was taken with disposable camera No. 59, which traveled all the way to the South Pole.

This photo was taken with disposable camera No. 59, which traveled all the way to the South Pole. The Disposable Memory Project hide caption

itoggle caption The Disposable Memory Project

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.