Show Mobile Navigation

Top 10 Unusual Uses of a Camera

mjdolorico . . . Comments

From recording events to damaging careers, cameras have made a huge impact on society. It sums up a whole story in a single image or a video. It serves as a preserver of memories and as a communications tool. This list gives you ten unorthodox yet fascinating things cameras have been used for.


Document Your Eating Habits

Brownrice F

Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu is a Japanese inventor who claims to hold the world record for the most number of inventions, the most notable being the technology for floppy disks, the digital watch, Cinemascope and the taxicab meter. He is quite well-known, appearing in several American shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Late Night with David Letterman. What puts him on this list is the fact that he won the 2005 Ig Nobel prize (an annual award that honors achievements that ‘first make people laugh, and then think’) for Nutrition. What did he do that made him won? For 34 straight years (and counting), he managed to photograph every meal he’s ever eaten, and after that, he analyses the nutrition content of his past meals. According to him, his goal is to live 144 years.


Capture a Slice of Life


Every Day is an ongoing visual project created by U.S. artist Karl Baden. It involves him taking a photograph of his face on a daily basis. It started on February 23, 1987, and is still continuing today. According to Baden, the inspiration for this project ‘originates in the vectors of curiosity and distress tied to four factors’ that affected his life. These factors are mortality, incremental change, obsession (in relation to the psyche and art-making) and the difference between perfection and ‘being human.’

As for the method of capturing this ‘slice of life,’ the same setup was used for all the portraits taken: a single camera, with a tripod, strobe lighting and a white backdrop. The portraits were almost always the same, his face on the center, under the same lighting conditions, with minimal expression and distinct indicators of mood and/or personality.

Many times during the course of the project, Baden takes a series of his photographs and creates an installation with it. One example is 10x10x10, a series of eleven framed photos taken 10 months apart, beginning October 10, 1987, which was displayed in tandem with a book. It was displayed at the Robert Mann Gallery in New York from September 7 up until October 31, 1995. Also, during May 2007, he exhibited 7,305 contact prints of the photographs he had taken of himself to mark the 20th year of the project.


Serve as a Memory Aid

Smart Goggles

Ever had those annoying senior moments when you forgot where you put your car keys, or the remote control? With the Cyber Goggles, that will be a thing of the past. Designed by scientists at the University of Tokyo, the Cyber Goggles consists of a small compact camera and LCD screen connected to the goggles . These are connected to a small but ‘intelligent’ computer strapped on your back. To use it, focus the camera to an important object you want to find later, such as car keys, and say the name of the object. The computer records the image and connects it to the object’s name. When you want to find the object, just state its name and the computer will search its database, finding the right image to show, and then display it on the screen.

Although the goggles have technical flaws, the technology shows great promise in advancing the field of robotics. The image recognition technology that the goggles uses could help in the development of more human-like robots. It will not be available in your nearest tech store yet, but it is an interesting use of innovative technology.


Make Yourself ‘Invisible’


Speaking of the University of Tokyo, 3 professors from there demonstrated in 2003 that invisibility can be achieved. Well, sort of. Using a surprisingly complicated setup called that uses optical camouflage technology, Susumu Tachi, Masahiko Inami and Naoki Kawakami managed to create the illusion of invisibility. It involves the use of a video camera, a computer connected to a projector, and a special coat made of reflective material. What happens is, the camera, placed behind the coat, records the scenery behind whoever is wearing the coat, feeds it to a computer, and projects the scenery to the front of the coat wearer, making it seem that you can see through the coat-wearer. Voila, instant ‘invisibility’! Well, sort of.


Monitor your Cat

Cctrip1 08.Jpg

Cats are born wanderers. So naturally, the owners can sometimes get curious about their whereabouts. That happened to Jurgen Perthold and his pet tomcat, Mr. Lee. To fix the problem, Perthold came up with the CatCam, a 2-1/2 oz. camera attached to Mr. Lee’s collar, to help him record Mr Lee’s escapades. The camera, which takes photos every minute for a total of two days, has shown Mr. Lee with other cats, exploring the neighborhood, hiding under cars, walking down various gardens, and even meeting a snake. The photos of Mr. Lee’s ‘adventures’ soon attracted worldwide attention through Perthold’s website and started a fad, as other cat-owners started attaching their own CatCams to their pets.


Light over the Brooklyn Bridge

2534587284 22Df632E36

Improv Everywhere, a comedic performance art collective based in New York City, specializes in creating ‘scenes of chaos and joy in public places.’ They execute pranks, called missions, in various places in New York. Some examples are freezing in place in Grand Central Station, riding on the New York subway with no pants, swarming a Best Buy department store wearing Best Buy employee shirts, and many more.

One of their more interesting missions is the Camera Flash experiment. A week before the 125th birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge in May 2008, 700 Improv Everywhere agents lined up the length of the bridge, and flashed their cameras at the same time, creating an amazing wave of light that traversed the bridge. Although it was raining at that time, the mission was a success, although not many people get to see the flash up close.


Create Performance Art


Li Wei, a Chinese contemporary artist from Beijing, combines performance art and photography in his stunning works of art, such as his series of photos that depict him in death-defying situations. For example, he made a series of photos of himself supposedly pushed off a skyscraper and free falling . He also made a startling series of photographs showing him landing headfirst on various surfaces such as sidewalks, windshields, and water. In fact, most of his photographs depict him (and other various models) defying gravity in some way. Most of Li Wei’s illusions were achieved with the use of invisible steel wires, a special mirror and Wei’s own acrobatic skills.


Cover an Entire Van

Camera Van

Harrod Blank is an American ‘art car’ artist, and is one of the people responsible for starting the so-called ‘art car’ movement in America. ‘Art cars,’ by the way, are cars whose appearances had been altered for artistic purposes. To combine his love for art cars and photography, Blank covered a 1972 Dodge van with 2,000 cameras, hiding ten working cameras around it that can be operated on the dashboard, and paraded it around the streets of New York City in 1995, while capturing over 5,000 pictures for a photography exhibit entitled ‘I’ve Got A Vision.’


Create Living Pictures

Arthur Mole Photography People Perspective Art5

Arthur Mole, an English commercial artist, became famous for his series of ‘living pictures’ of thousands of soldiers forming various American patriotic symbols. Made during World War I, these live compositions were captured using a regular camera from an 80-ft tower. Mole would usually spend around a week planning and organizing each picture, with his partner John Thomas. He would direct the various troops to form an image according to a picture drawn on the camera’s lenses. After that, assistants would trace the outline of the image using long pieces of lace to approximate how many soldiers would he need for the photograph.

Mole’s, most famous photographs were the Human U.S. Shield, made with 30,000 men, The Human Liberty Bell, made with 25,000 men, Human Statue of Liberty, with 18,00 troops, and a portrait of then-president Woodrow Wilson made with 21,000 soldiers.


Capture Masses of Naked Bodies

Screen Shot 2010-04-06 At 3.38.26 Pm

American artist Spencer Tunick tops the list for his work in ‘documenting the live nude figure in public.’ He is best known for his installations that depict large masses of nude people in various artistic positions in equally diverse public settings. His unique interest first began in New York in 1992, starting on single individual nudes or a small nude group. In 1994, he began documenting large groups in various temporary sites in the U.S. and abroad.

Since then his installations have travelled around the world, especially around Europe and South America. His largest installation involved photographing 18,000 nudes posed in Mexico City’s main square, the Zocalo, on May 6, 2007, which is more than double his previous record of 7,000 people in Barcelona. He is also often commissioned by various organizations to do special installations, such as Tunick’s installation of 600 nudes forming a living sculpture on the Aletsch Glacier in collaboration with Greenpeace, in an effort to draw attention to the effects of global warming, on glaciers on August 18, 2007.

  • This is a very good article and very informative, i will bookmark this as my great article. Thank you for sharing..

    • Ruth

      KYsheila Posted on I loved this card. My 4 year old grandson has a wofdurnel imagination and I can see that used as a wheel on a truck. I can put some car stickers on it. Thank you so much. It is so hard to find boy ideas. I liked the way you saved money on tape. I’ve been paying $6.00 plux tax for 36 feet of tape. Now, I am going to do it both ways. You did use masking tape right? Then take it off and the sticky stuff stays on your card? Anyway, a HUGE thanks. Sheila

  • pithlitt

    #7 is in R&D for several militaries around the world. I’ve seen a few of Spencer Tunick’s works. There’s usually a piece about it on the news here when he does a new one. I don’t know that all of these are “unusual uses” even if interesting. :)

  • atchimu


  • khatzeye


  • fuckstain

    Very imaginative idea for a list. Good work. It was not what I expected.

  • tarachowski

    Like! x

  • bmault

    WTF is this list?

  • nicoleredz3

    Creative! Great job, mjdolorico!

  • astraya

    I suspect that some people have got too much time on their hands.

  • forsythia

    I think with the exceptions of entries 3 and (mayyyybe) 5, there is nothing very “unusual” about the way in which the camera was used. It seems to me that in all the other cases the camera was used for…DUN DUN DUNNNNN…taking pictures! *Gasp*

    I hate to be a list basher because I know, no matter what, the list took time to make and the author had a good idea. But, yeah, this list just didn’t cut it for me. But it was a nice effort…well written. :)

  • sadmuso

    Cool list.

  • oouchan

    I got a kick out of this list. Nice job.
    I want to try the cat cam one. I would love to confirm that my cat is plotting world domination while I’m at work.

  • nicoleredz3


    Here I thought I was paranoid and believing that I was the only one thinking that cats are planning to “hijack” the world…

    Egg’s on my face, at least I was right about the paranoid, thing… :-)

    I find item no. 2, to be absurd.

  • gigo70

    An interesting one.

    Can we have some more ‘bizarre’ lists, please? They appeal to my weird side :-)

  • mjdolorico

    tnx for the comments!

    just a note:

    @forsythia (comment#10), the original title of this list is 10 ‘bizarre things you can do with a camera.’ the title was edited and turned into ‘unusual uses for a camera’. instead i should have said ‘…do or capture with…’ so that the idea of the list is clear. so it’s just a problem of title semantics. just pointing out…

  • weidermeijer

    Psssttt… dude you’re NOT invisible.

    Love the work Spencer Tunick is doing… just need some massage oil, tequila and a bunch of condoms! Now that’s a party!

    … something the ancient Greeks and Romans would be proud of!

  • smaj7

    Great list! I LOVE photography and the art of still motion.

    I rather like the lists that open up a new wave of thinking rather than an onslaught of dinosaurs …

    @nicoleredz3: You know what’s funny about #2. It’s WW1 and this guys lining up soldiers to take pictures of animals and the like while a ridiculous world war is going on … amazing.

  • saintigel

    It would have been nice to have a NSFW warning in regards to #1. Sure, it’s “art” but them’s a lotta boobies to be greeted with when you don’t have your own office.

  • This is a well writen and interesting list. However, I would have to argue that in some instances it isn’t the camera, but the photograph, that is used in an “unusual” way. Just a thought. :)

  • mjdolorico

    i could have retitled it:

    a) unusual things you can do/capture with a camera
    b) unusual uses for cameras and photography

    admittedly long and awkward titles,but i think that is the best way to convey what the list really says.

    any thoughts?

  • bluelouie

    as a photography student i find this list really interesting. I love Spencer Tunicks work, he’s greattt. I watched a documentary about him, it was hilarious with all the naked people running from the police :D 4 was also interesting.

  • Scratch

    I once used a camera as a paperweight, true story.

    I was not expecting a beaver on this list, but there it is.

  • undaunted warrior 1

    Im not realy into photograpy but I enjoyed the read thanks.

    # 6 Monitoring via a collered camera, its been around for some time now, they have been fixed to rhino, lions and other wild life so scientists can get a better picture of their routine in the wilds.

    # 7 I wish I could make a camera invisible I would strap it onto my mother in laws forehead while she is asleep – the damn old crack pot seems to know my every move.

  • Being a photographer myself, I found the items on the list to be extremely humdrum. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was unusual or unexpected. Everything, except the experiments in Japan, have been done before…and done better.
    Sorry, mjdolorico, I know you probably worked hard on your list, but I have to give it a fail.

  • nicoleredz3

    @smaj7: (17)

    Exactly! What a waste…

  • Lifeschool

    hi, I was enjoying the list until I came to #6 – and now I’m enthrawled by cat cams. The web site of Jurgen Perthold is professional and interesting, and a quick click on ‘Catcam’ and then ‘Photos’ brings up all kinds of wierd and wonderful. ‘Cooper from Seattle’ is my favourite feline so far. The abstract pictures by Barnum and the landscapes of Fritz were amazing – until I clicked on Cow Cam! – which has some great photos of the alps – and their web site is also highly amoozing!

  • Scratch

    Meh, I thought the list was interesting.

  • links??
    interesting list tho :))

    oh, i see lifeschool posted a few..

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    fun list

  • forsythia


    Hey, totally agree. I wasn’t knocking you in anyway. The list was definitely interesting to read and visually appealing! A differently worded title would have helped.

    But a fun list overall, for sure. :)

  • Lifeschool
  • animalrobot87

    awesome list.. i’d especially like the invisibility jacket.. even if it never fully worked.. its a really neat concept, if they could make it cheap and portable… it be quite interesting to see people with see thru bodies, haha.

  • Give it some welly


    oh, come on….

  • mimz619


  • theoriginalcasualreader

    Enjoyable list.

    I notice protagonist 2, Arthur Mole, had an assistant called John Thomas. Logic suggests that anyone with a name like that ought to be involved with protagonist 1, Spencer Turick!

  • grbinc

    SO many usessss of the camsssss……but da numbr 1use is stilll da same capturing the nudes…neways a gudlist

  • 5kidswdisabilities

    LOVED to monitor your cat and for performance art! Great use of a camera!!!

  • blogball

    I like the list mjdolorico because it is unique.
    However it does seem to be lacking a consistent theme. You could have actually used some of the items listed for some ideas to make several different lists. For example:

    10 people who documented their lives with daily photographs
    Top 10 animal cams
    10 fascinating example of performance art
    Top 10 cars and vans covered with worthless crap
    Top 10 Aerial Photos of Human Formations etc.

  • Cyn


    5. Can I use a signature?
    No. Do not put signatures at the end of your comments – we can see from the comment what your username is and we don’t allow readers to use the comments for advertising. Furthermore, links posted in comments are not indexed by Google or other search engines so you can’t improve your site rank by doing this.
    this is what the ‘read me first’ is linked to. think Jamie reinstated it so for those not familiar w/ posting comments & FAQs ..please do ‘read me first’ before commenting. thanx.

  • The_Snowdog

    I had those Cyber Goggles (# 8)

    Unfortunately, I put them down and forgot where I put them

  • mjdolorico

    tnx for those who offered constructive comments on my list!
    and for those who liked my list tnx as well!
    i plan on contributing more of my lists here in listverse and i hope you would like them as well!

  • mjdolorico

    appreciated the gesture of putting up links on my entries.
    tnx a lot!

  • jreddy666

    I love this kind of list….keep ’em coming!

  • #10 made me think of part of a project my sister did for her photography degree thesis. She took pictures of everything she threw away for a year. It made things a little awkward when she made waitresses wait to take her plate away until after she took a picture of it.

  • nathaaan90

    A very interesting list. I however, don’t agree with #1

  • Great list, just opens yoru eyes up to all the creativity we have in this world.

  • JC

    it’d be nice if some of those bodies in #1 were female..

  • sorcy79au

    Hmmm, the dude in 8 is cute! I wouldn’t mind taking his picture ;-D

  • Urbaribit


  • Toulsececlilk


  • karen

    wow this is a really unusual thing that i didn’t now at all but now i do so yeah :) but thank you for this information well bye <3

  • Ankaraescrt

    This is tasteless, but binllrait!Reply by on August 12th, 2009 at Wednesday, August 12, 2009 @ 12:53 [email protected], taste and tact both for pussies.Reply by Twitter: on August 12th, 2009 at Wednesday, August 12, 2009 @ 12:20 [email protected], I had to come back and read this again during my post-deposition lunch at my desk. I love the 1945 and the 0032 ones best. Brilliantly offensive.Reply by on August 12th, 2009 at Wednesday, August 12, 2009 @ 12:52 [email protected], I’m trying to be sensitive, not offensive!