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

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."

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. The Disposable Memory Project hide caption

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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. The Disposable Memory Project hide caption

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The Disposable Memory Project
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