In a revealing photo project that kind of spins photography on its head, Meggan Gould took pictures of viewfinders. You know, the thing that photographers usually look through. Turns out viewfinders look more like stained petri dishes than the looking glass of still life.
It is funny to see gunk build up in viewfinders and act as obstacles you have to ignore. Gould says:
I found myself telling students every semester that the gunk they see embedded in the viewfinder is not going to show up in the picture, explaining the camera mechanics. After saying it enough times, I began to think more about that mediation of the apparatus itself, and began to try to photograph the viewfinders, to isolate them from the world beyond – and I found them fascinating as I did. Amazing differences in how the manufacturers make them – text, font choices, colors, shapes… never mind the histories of individual camera use, with hair, mold, dust, cracks…