The Minox Files is a photography project that began in 1997 and continues to evolve. All photographs have been made with an analog Minox Spy camera, sometimes coupled with binoculars. This subminiature camera (negative size 8x11mm) was perfect for carrying and photographing on a daily basis.
Photographer Mark van den Brink cuts the polyester film to size himself before loading it into his Minox camera. He bought the camera with the idea that it allows you to photograph the things around you inconspicuously, like a voyeur. During his training at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, he became captivated by the distortion, rough structure, and imperfections that resulted from making prints in the darkroom. It felt self-evident to his way of looking. On a trip through the Alps, he experimented by fastening his camera to binoculars or a telescope, so that the mountains felt close and at the same time even further away. The Minox Files embodies this raw curiosity.
The first product to bear the Minox name was a subminiature camera, conceived as early as 1922 (Riga) but only invented and produced later by the Baltic German Walter Zapp in 1936. From 1937 to 1943, the Minox camera was manufactured by the Latvian VEF (Valstselektrotehniskā fabrika). However, following World War II, the camera was redesigned and started production in Germany. Walter Zapp originally intended the Minox to be a camera anyone could use, especially those new to photography. Nevertheless, the prohibitively high cost of production soon led Minox to become more widely associated as an amateur photographer’s luxury gadget. Shortly thereafter, and none too surprisingly, it entered the ranks of espionage as a spy camera. The ultralight aluminum device’s 80x27x16 mm format could easily be concealed in clothing, hollow books, bags, and suitcases. During the Cold War, intelligence operatives used them to take snapshots of classified documents and maps. And the number of movies in which this little spy camera stars are endless. For example, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), James Bond uses the Minox to covertly capture the locations of deadly biological warfare agents. At 8×11 mm, the Minox also has the smallest-sized negatives in analog photography. The delicate silvery surface is 88 mm2 on a polyester base.
The Minox Files is on display at the FiftyOne Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium, until 10/29/2022.
About the Author
Mark van den Brink (born in Witmarsum, NL in 1965) studied photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam from which he graduated in 1996.
He continued to develop himself as a freelance photographer but his autonomous projects are the most important part of his work. His projects arise on his journeys inland and to foreign countries. His pictures are characterized by the use of a small spy camera, which he occasionally combines with a spyglass. Lives and works in Amsterdam, NL.