How To: Vintage Camera Wall Display

About my vintage camera collection wall display

Like many camera collectors, I want my cameras to be seen and enjoyed, but I could never find a good way to properly display them. Each camera I acquire, I clean/restore and then take studio photos of so that (most likely just me) can view the camera on my website. Each camera is also photographed in 360 degrees too and eventually, I will get all of those posted online too. Sure sticking them on a shelf is fine, but I wanted them to have more of a presence. I had decided I wanted them to have more of a “museum” look, but to be honest, wasn’t 100% sure what that might be so I kept noodling on it for some time. By accident, while looking for inspiration for another project on Pinterest, I saw that someone had hung cameras by their neck strap on a wall. That got me intrigued and I started looking around on Pinterest for other vintage camera display ideas. And then I found this. Super cool, but no instructions. So for two or three months, I brainstormed on how to pull this off. And now that I have figured it out, here are the instructions so you too can create your own framed vintage camera wall collection.

Are the cameras damaged?

Let me get this out of the way right up front. I would consider it blasphemous to damage any camera. So no, none of these cameras were modified, let alone damaged in any way as a result of this project. Each is perfectly fine, and if I wanted, can be easily removed from its mount and clean or even used to take pictures.

The planning

For me, the hardest part of this whole project was the picture frames themselves — not the mounting of the cameras. Figuring out the layout, then how to mount them to the wall. I didn’t have a specific layout for the frames in mind, so with a trip to IKEA, I purchased several different sized frames, then started laying them out on the ground.

It became clear that a square-shape worked best for the area. Meaning, the random sized picture frames contained (roughly) within a square footprint. Once they were on the ground in the layout I liked, I cut some butcher paper to the exact size of the footprint then used a Sharpie pen to mark the corner of where each frame as located on the butcher paper. I used this as a stencil to figure out placement on the wall.

I used a pushpin to anchor the top, left corner of the butcher paper to the wall, leveled the butcher paper, then placed another pushpin in the top, right corner to keep the butcher paper on the wall. Next, I proceeded to use another pushpin and mark a small hole in the wall (where my Sharpie marks where located on the paper) to denote where each of the picture frame corners should be positioned.

Before removing the butcher paper, I used painter’s tape (that blue stuff) to define the outer boarder of the butcher paper. I am glad I did this as it will later help to make sure the outer frames are properly positioned.

Mounting the frames

With the glass, matte and backing board removed from all of my IKEA pictures frames, I applied 3M Command Strips to each corner of each frame. 3M claims two strips will hold six pounds, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Plus, having them in all four corners would ensure the frames don’t move. With the Command Strips applied, I started mounting the frames to the wall, starting in the top, left corner. I did each corner first, followed by the two outer edge, middle frames. By doing the corners first, you could validate that the center frames were equally positioned between the upper and lower corner frames. I used the small holes that I had previously created as guides to ensure the frames were roughly in the right place. I used the black Command Strips — I wouldn’t use those next time. If you look closely at the picture above, you can just make them out along the vertical sides (near the top) of each from. Instead, look for clear or white ones (assuming your wall is white).

Mounting the cameras

The hunt for mounting hardware

When I first started to Google around to try and figure out how to mount the cameras to the wall, I found these really cool Hangie devices. But at $22/each, they are way too expensive for me. But, they did give me the idea to use the tripod mount in the bottom of just about every camera I own (even my early 1900s Kodak 3A Folding Brownie) to use as a way to fasten the camera securely to some sort of base plate that could also support the weight of the camera itself.

Railing support brackets I used for mounting most cameras

Inspired, I spent some quality time at my local Lowe’s hardware store. I thought I would buy some metal “L” brackets and figure out how to bend them at just the right distance and angle. I quickly discovered, however, this was going to be a challenge as the holes in the typical “L” bracket were not in the right place and I didn’t have a drill press to create new holes. Just when $22 Hangies started to look pretty good, I went down the fencing aisle, and found these gems. I think they are used for supporting wood railings. Not only are they powder coated and very clean looking, but one side is 1/2″, the other side 1″ from the elbow. It turns out these two dimensions are the perfect distance for four of my six cameras. Hot damn. 

The holes were slightly too small for the flat headed tripod screws I bought on, so I easily drilled them out with a metal bit. While these may look small and I suspect you’re thinking to yourself, “OK, so he screwed the camera to that thing. But the weight of the camera going to put to much stress on it?” Yeah… no. Once those brackets were drilled into a stud, I could have used each as a toe hold to climb up the wall. They aren’t going anywhere. And remember, your cameras probably have that much (or less) holding them to a tripod anyways.

4 inch brackets close-up
4 inch brackets close-up

With four of my six cameras figured out, I set out to find a way to address the remaining cameras. I focused on the Speed Graphic because it was the biggest and heaviest. For it, I settled on three four inch “L” brackets. One would be mounted center (and one of the flat head tripod screws fastened through it into the tripod socket in the bottom of the camera itself) whereas the other two would be offset on either side of center. These would be there just to help support the weight of the camera. When I anchored the center “L” bracket into the wall, I also looped through some picture hanging wire. I did this so that I could have a “just in case” tether to attached to the camera itself in case of a… umm, bad day. I carefully tied the other end of the wire to the hand grip on the camera, concealed so no one can see it. I also did a similar wire trick on the Kodak Hawkeye Brownie Flash camera which doesn’t have a tripod mount (more on that below).


No tripod screw mount in the bottom of this Hawkeye a bit of a challenge

As mentioned above, theKodak Hawkeye Brownie Flash doesn’t have a tripod screw in the bottom of the camera. So for this one, I bought a four inch “L”bracket, but this bracket is two inches wide. I opted for a wider one for this as I needed a wider platform for this camera to sit upon. Prior to mounting it to the wall, I spray painted it black so that it would better camouflage in to the bottom of the camera itself. To fasten this camera to the bracket, I used museum putty to adhere the the camera to the plate. If you take this approach, please test the putty on your camera first. I was less concerned about this camera as it has a Bak-o-lite (plastic) finish as opposed to leather or similar. However, like the Speed Graphic, this one too is wired to the bracket around the top handle for a “just in case” moment. 

Fastening to the wall

I must admit, I got really lucky. Every single one of my brackets is directly fastened into a stud. Otherwise, I would have had a lot of toggle bolts or drywall fasteners to deal with. Your mileage will no doubt vary. Obviously for final positioning of your cameras, measure three times, drill once. Not that it matters, but I started with the cameras across the top, then moved my way down. I didn’t want drywall dust (or worse) coming down on a camera below.

Wrapping things up, final costs

Care for the cameras is pretty straight forward. Each can easily be taken down (though the Hawkeye Brownie takes a bit more finesse with the museum putty). To remove a camera is no more difficult than taking it off a tripod. While hard to appreciate, all of these cameras are really just sitting on a bracket to support their weight, with a tripod mount screw holding them in place. Remember, the cameras themselves are not really that heavy. Every picture frame on the wall (less the one around the Speed Graphic) actually weighs more than the camera it surrounds. So do let the mounting plates concern you. 

Total cost for this project will cost you about $25/per camera. That is all in — picture frame and mounting hardware.