The Black Arts Camera

This is our primary Camera, it’s an early camera crafted by Stephen Silipigni of Black Art Woodcraft.  He calls this design the Ross 8 x 10 field camera. Today, Thousands of children and adults alike have looked through our camera, becoming one of the main attractions of our camp. It seems as if nearly everyone is astounded by the clarity of the lenses while questioning why the image is upside down.


Unfortunately,  unannounced to us when we purchased the camera used.  We learned That it had, had a hard life. It was originally crafted for someone in Europe and was severely damaged in shipping, then cobbled back together by Steve to be used as a backup camera. It was never supposed to be resold.

When I started looking for a more period correct 8 x 10 camera, I basically had the choice of looking for an antique, with an average cost of about $2,000.00 while likely needing restoration. Or purchasing a new purpose built a camera for about the same price without restoration, I chose the latter option. This narrowed my choice between two different manufacturers, remembering I wanted a period style. leaving me to choose between a 8 x 10 crafted by Star Camera Company or an 8 x10 crafted by Black Art Woodcraft.  Out of the two cameras, I preferred the Black Art Woodcraft camera. However, the average turnaround to have one crafted by Black Art Woodcraft is 6 months to a year. At the time, We choose to purchase a used one, to reduce the overall cost and wait time.

Perhaps when my skills increase, and I start earning more money with the camera, I’ll have one crafted for me. The average cost of a modern crafted Ross 8 x 10 field camera is close to $2500.00.  I find it interesting, some of the collodionist who have been working the craft for a number of years will often end up with a camera crafted for them. Then, when articles are written about the photographer, Their primary camera often receives some notoriety. None of these cameras are mass produced and are traditionally produced for the photographer, or they are using an 1860’s era wet-plate camera.

We are always open to donations to help us purchase a new camera specifically built for me.


While my camera wasn’t specifically crafted for me, and it does have some mechanical issues which Steve is willing to address. I’ve been quoted a price of nearly half the cost of what we paid for the camera, With the additional down time. At present time I have not made a plate holder or lens boards for my 8 x 10 film camera, so, basically, I would be hobbled, limiting my ability to work. Additionally, As we are on a shoestring budget I’ve chosen to work with a woodworker and machinist to craft new support structure for the camera box. Creating a new brass T-slot track, allowing me to lock the focus of the camera.  For the last couple of years I’ve been limping along using the camera, and unfortunately, it has accidentally been knocked over a couple of times.  Causing further damage, making it very difficult if not impossible to lock back standard in place holding my focus, for my most commonly used portrait lens. This last weekend, at Red Bluff Civil War days, really proved that point requiring someone to help hold the rear standard in place.

Additionally, I have encountered a few other issues, such as creating new lensboards and inserts for different sized plates. And then finally the occasional light leak, when locking the plate holder into the camera.

So, in short, by the time we are done, I’ll have a camera that’s been customized for me. with dreams of eventually ordering a new one, or learning the skills to craft my own.

as we work on the camera, I’ll update this posting.

Here are some different photos of the camera.




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