Art & Archives, Getty Center, Photographs, Film, and Video

Photographic Magic with the Diana Camera

Photographer April Rocha sent us an excited e-mail a while ago, sharing her enthusiasm for the Diana camera, which she noticed was available at the Museum Store at the Getty Center. We asked her to tell us more, and she obliged with this appreciation:

The Diana camera was originally produced in the 1960s as an inexpensive camera given away, usually, as a promotional item. The camera is made of plastic and takes size 120 film. The lens is made of plastic, so the camera produces images that are not always in focus, giving the images a specific look. Lomography now produces a replica of this camera called the Diana+.

Why I love the Diana camera can sometimes be difficult to explain. I see an image shot with one and I just fall in love. Maybe it’s the vignetting of the image, or that parts of the image are out of focus, giving the shot a sort of mysterious feel, or maybe it’s the square negative. All I really know is that I love shooting with the camera.

Diana camera

Our friends at Wikipedia offer a somewhat less lyrical assessment of the Diana, noting its “plastic viewfinder of questionable utility,” “crude lens,” “poorly designed camera body latching mechanism, predisposed to light leaks,” and construction of “low-quality…plastics of the type commonly found in toys imported from Asia during the 1960s.”

But take a look at these moody and mysterious shots of the Getty Center that April took with her Diana and you can see how the camera’s limitations create magic. You can see more toy camera artistry in these prize-winning photos from the “Plastic Fantastic Show” at LightBox Gallery in Oregon.

Thanks for sharing your images with us, April!

Poppies in the Central Garden at the Getty Center - taken with a Diana camera

The Getty Research Institute at the Getty Center - taken with a Diana camera

Crape Myrtle trees in the Central Garden at the Getty Center - taken with a Diana camera

A ladybird poppy in the Central Garden at the Getty Center - taken with a Diana camera

Tidy tips in the Central Garden at the Getty Center - taken with a Diana camera

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  1. StaceyRain
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I like her reflection in the lens and viewfinder.

  2. Jules Bianchi
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    OMG I love it!!

  3. Posted July 7, 2010 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Absolutely amazing photo’s!!! I took photos in the same flower garden last year, wish mine looked anything like this!!! Great work an thank you for sharing!!!

  4. Posted July 8, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    WOW! These are gorgeous photos! April is so talented!

  5. Lupe
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful pictures!!!! Ditto on April’s talent!!!

  6. Gordon Lonsdale
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    It is fun to see that, it is not the camera that makes the picture beautiful but in this case the woman behind it.

  7. paula panich
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    April Rocha is a great witness to the world around her — I am a collector of her work, and, of course, a fan. Brava!

  8. KarinW.
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    These photos are absolutely amazing! Love April’s work! I love the black and white especially!!!!

  9. Kara Frans
    Posted July 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Just gorgeous!

  10. Isabel Gomes
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    These photos show the Getty in a whole new light! I applaud you, Getty for featuring a new perspective and photographic artist.

  11. B.J.
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing April. I took similar photos at the Getty just last week but they don’t look anything like yours. Wish I’d had the Diana Camera and your photo eye.

  12. Posted July 11, 2010 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    OMG April! Just fell in love…..beautiful.

  13. Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    So glad to see you guys bringing attention to images created with the Diana. i LOVE the ethereal quality of the work from these tools, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE April Rocha’s work. Very timeless.

  14. Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I love April’s eye. I’ve had the great fortune of learning from her many times. She is so talented and a true artist.

  15. Michael L
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Evidently a practical camera combined with a talented photographer who has a great eye…… The Getty should put her on staff!

  16. anulka kitamura
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    wonderful! a beautiful eye and a beautiful girl

  17. Cameron W.
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    April Rocha has a very keen, lyrical eye. These are amazing!

  18. Diedra Perkins
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Wow! The images are absolutely breathtaking! Although the floral subjects are beautiful, Ms. Rocha’s adeptness at using the Diana camera enhanced the images even more. I am in awe of the whimsical effect Ms. Rocha was able to achieve in her photos. Great work!

  19. deborah
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh my… These are some of the best pictures I have ever seen. Who is this photographer. I must watch for her stuff again.

  20. Nat
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Great photos! Where do I go to see more from this photographer?

  21. Alexandra
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    These images do have a vintage feel about them. They make me want to play in the Getty gardens. I love the top one the best. There’s a a beautiful simplicity about it. The photographer captures more than just the subject matter. She has an eye for composition, light and angles. Great work, great talent!

  22. Amanda Booth Bice
    Posted July 12, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I have been a Garden Designer for over twenty years. I am always searching out garden images, gardens, and species for my own pleasure and to be able to inspire my client’s. I came across Ms. Rocha’s work a few years ago when she photographed an old mansion in Los Angeles. Her use of the Diana Camera especially took my breathe away! Ms. Rocha also has a keen eye of landscapes with unique visual angles I do not usually see in photography. Have you seen her series of Santa Monica? I believe she has a photograph of the ferris wheel and a lifeguard station also photograped by the Diana Camera…You have this etheral feeling of years gone by sort of like the could have been taken on the set of “Summer of 42”!!!

  23. sandy koepke
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Put the right tool in the hands of an artist and look what you get! That first shot just glows! Are you selling the prints in the gift shop too?

    • Posted July 13, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Hi Sandy — We’re so glad you like these photos! We don’t have these in the Museum Store, although we have a variety of nice garden and architecture shots on posters and postcards (albeit, created with a standard camera, of course!).

  24. Posted July 13, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Wow…all those times I’ve taken photos at the Getty and not once did I think to use a Diana. Kudos to April Rocha, these are truly lovely and bring a whole new appreciation of the Getty grounds!

  25. Posted July 13, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    April is so fabulous! I love her toy camera work. Gorgeous!!!

  26. Marina Sirtis
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a fan of April’s work for quite a time now. These photos are beautiful and demonstrate what a great eye she has.

  27. CJM
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    What wikipedia sees as a low quality, crude and questionable toy camera has become a tool for beauty in the hands – and through the eyes – of a talented and creative photographer. The Getty Gardens have long been a favorite spot for me and it is great to see them in a whole new way. Agree with one of the earlier comments:would love to see some of these images for sale as cards – or whatever -in your gift shop. Thanks for sharing them.

  28. Patrick T.
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    I live in San Francisco, but visit LA frequently. At times I drive and ultimately pass by the Getty museum. Family members and friends have visited although I have not yet had the pleasure. These images by acclaimed photo artist, April Rocha, are a testament to what a visionary can see through a cheap plastic lens. Thanks Getty and April for a very cool story.

  29. Roger
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Your floral photos are gorgeous!

    The Getty representatives must be so proud of you taking a Getty Gift Shop item and producing such wonderful and stunning photos with great composition and light balance.


  30. Danny Gonzalez
    Posted July 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I think that it is so important to find the simple things in life, and expose
    them to the world.
    Thank you April Rocha for doing just that.
    I’ve been inspiried by your story to go out and get
    one of these neat little cameras myself.
    You’re an amazing talet, keep it up.

  31. Laurie
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Brilliant photos. I have been a fan of April’s for a long time. She captures light, shapes and composition with a creative eye. The Diana camera lends itself to her particular talents allowing her to creative her work with a whimsical style. Wonderful work. Congratulations to April and congratulations to the Getty for allowing her to have access to the gardens.

  32. Mitchel Excellent
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I love these pictures. Especially the first bouquet. It should be a wall sized picture.

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