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Snap it Forward

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In the digital age, disposable cameras seem archaic and clunky compared to their shiny, megabit-stuffed superiors. Yet some people still prefer the cheap price tag and old­­–school image quality.

Alexis Kovalenko, co-founder of the Paris-based travel website Hejorama, counts himself as a non-convert to digital.

“The grainy style and aesthetic always appealed to the team at Hejorama. Now with programs like Instagram becoming trendy, the image quality is relevant again.”

Hejorama started five years ago as a student project. Alexis and two friends wanted to use their IT and web-design skills to build an online resource for the travel community. A year and a half ago they relaunched the website and decided to work nearly full time on their endeavor.

“Once we started to build a team of professional journalists and media producers, the online presence became more of a travel magazine,” explains Kovalenko. “But we wanted to keep the original idea of organizing community events and projects offline.”

In the summer of 2011, Kovalenko and his team created a community project called Disposable Stories. They gave ten disposable cameras to friends in Paris to take on their travels, with these simple instructions: snap five photos and pass the camera on to a fellow traveler.  Once the last person in the chain completed the roll, they would ­(hopefully) mail it back to Hejorama.

Six months later, the first camera arrived in their mailbox, having travelled from Paris to Saigon via Berlin, England, Austria, Norway, and Russia.

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“The difficulty with a project like this is finding the right people to hand the camera to,” says Kovalenko. “It is not a complicated task, but the trick is getting five people who are both interested and motivated enough to continue the chain.”

Now, with the aide of Kickstarter, Hejorama is relaunching the project on a bigger scale. If it gets funded (they’re looking to raise $4,800 by May 26), they will send 99 Kodak Funsaver cameras around the world to start new photo chains.

At the heart of Disposable Stories is finding the serendipity and mystery in travel, from meeting strangers face-to-face to snapping photos from a yellow box.

The project has made some upgrades. Gone are the notebooks that accompanied the first set of cameras to write an explanation of the shots. Instead, the last known locations of the cameras will be mapped on Hejorama.com, where photos will be published online after the cameras are returned.

“With disposable cameras you don’t see the picture straight away so you always have the risk that it won’t look like you expect,” says Kovalenko. “Which can either be a good thing or a bad thing.”

Check out the Disposable Stories Kickstarter campaign.