Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about art. My darkroom is still in transition, still lots to figure out about water pipes, and demolition. But I have been absolutely craving to do a pinhole photography project. Pinhole Photography is tons-o-fun, very easy to do, and you can get a lot of creative effects.
Hanging above my desk is a pinhole photograph that my photography professor took of me for a class example in college. It was one of my favorite wedding presents that we received. In the foreground is a statue, one side is lighter than the other side, I think he was showing the difference in exposure times. Then he had me stand on the right side for a certain amount of time to get a ghost image. I love the mystery and the ambiguity of the photograph. And in some ways it’s like seeing a ghost of myself from back in college.
A Pinhole Camera is a basic camera without a lens. Really it is just a box or object with a very small hole in one side that light passes through. Whatever you use for your camera needs to be primarily light tight, and you will need to make some sort of shutter (I usually used electrical tape). Getting the light right in pinhole photography can be a bit of a trick. It can take anywhere from 5 secs to hours of exposure, depending on your light situation. When it’s done right pinhole photography can have exquisite tones, eerie ghost images, or funky focus. You can make a pinhole camera out of an oatmeal can, a hat box, a regular box, something that can fit in your mouth, or (I’ve never actually seen this but I’ve heard about it) a red pepper. Supposedly the light that does come through the skin of the pepper is similar to that of a red safe light in a darkroom, so it wouldn’t expose your sensitive paper. But like I said, I have yet to experience this.
One of my favorite artists is Ann Hamilton. She does large scale installations that deal a lot with textiles, as well as photography, language, video, and sound. Some of her works include Indigo Blue, Corpus, and Myein. They are absolutely beautiful and moving, but also deeply thought out. It’s fantastic to hear how she speaks about her work as well. One of my favorite photographic series that she did, though, was called the “face to face” series. In this series she made a pinhole camera out of a small plastic container, small enough to fit in her mouth. She used her lips as the shutter and would open them to expose images of the people she was talking too. Obviously she would have to keep her mouth open for quite awhile to expose the image, and she talked about the social awkwardness of having your mouth open while staring at someone’s face. In the photographs you can see the outline of her lips. It’s very interesting and you can check out some galleries of her work Here and some videos of her HERE.
Pinhole is a great way to get some fun, and beautiful images. Sometimes going back to the basics can inspire and intrigue us in new ways. If you decide to give pinhole a try, all you need is: photographic paper, your object that you are going to make into your camera, I suggest a small strip of metal to drill your hole into and then attach to your camera, something for a shutter, and lots of tape to seal up any holes or light leaks. And then of course you will need somewhere to develop your pictures. I’m hoping to do some pinhole soon, I’m just bursting with ideas.