World Pinhole Photography Day is fast approaching and now is the perfect opportunity to start pinholing - Once you get over any fear of the unknown, you'll never look back, it's so much fun!
People make pinhole photos for a multitude of reasons, it’s the most basic form of photography with a camera that you can get. I say with a camera because there are camera-less methods of photography, but that is something we shall leave for another time! Making a pinhole image means you need to pause, to take a moment and consider; it is not fast paced photography but it can be hip shot and you can get images that capture movement and the passage of time (just not as you would expect.)
If you have never made a Pinhole camera before, let’s just demystify the process for you. A pinhole camera is essentially a light tight box with a hole in it – It’s a tiny hole but just a hole, no lens, the light just streams through in straight lines onto the photo paper or the film surface and the length of time that the surface is exposed for determines your image.
You must make the inside of the box black and non-reflective so that light doesn’t cause leaks by bouncing around in there (especially off the film or paper surface). The pinhole itself can be made from a drinks can or other thin aluminium or brass shim if you wish! just cut out a small one c.m. square and drill a hole with a fine needle – Don’t get too hung up on the sizes when you are beginning with pinholes. It is possible to get rather anal about it and start scanning them! for those that haven’t made one at all before just go with gently drilling it through the metal.
When you have made the hole, there will be a burr (rough edge) – You may not see it but it’s there and the light will catch it so it has to be removed by rubbing gently with a fine grade emery paper – Both sides should be done so that, when you hold it up to the light or feel it, you cannot see or feel anything. After you have got a black pen and darkened the back, attach this with black tape (the one we all know and love) to the small aperture you have made in your chosen container. Don’t forget to black the inside of this as well. Now that is basically it if you are using paper as it can just sit in the back with the emulsion side facing opposite the hole. For film it’s a bit more preparation but it’s a lot easier in the long run. I think I need to do a ‘How to’ in detail with images, so keep watching here!
Now we can go with a basic container like a cylinder or a matchbox or we could start to think of whacky shapes that we want to create. Once you have made one camera, then you can’t walk into a shop without seeing the potential in all containers!
The first Pinhole that I made was a matchbox camera – Perfectly bizarre images came from it, an utter delight and so discrete! then I decided to add a second matchbox to that one, a ‘Double’ with twin pinholes at different levels just to mix it up a bit. That became a bit wild but the images were lovely especially as it wasn’t taped up with Black insulation tape enough and the light leaks were to die for!
My third cam was made for World Pinhole Day some years ago now – It was made from a cashew nut tin and, being cylindrical, it had to have a way of holding the film. I might add that all my previous cams have been for film, I do prefer this as it means I do not have to keep changing paper in a changing bag or going into somewhere dark. Okay, so back to working out how to get the film to go around – Well, I decided to use more junk and a film pot was used and essentially bolted to the bottom of the can using a long bolt post and a nut. This was inserted through some stiff card (cut to the size of the diameter) so I didn’t have to puncture the base of the can. The film was to now curve around this and the exposures would then blend together. I put five pinholes in this one! This became my “Pinhole Cylindrical Can Cam” it was with this name that I set up the group on flickr, specifically for these type of blended and curved plane pinholes (niche group yes but it’s growing!).
After this, I explored using a double cylinder method where the film would weave it’s way through two of these and through a gap; a bit convoluted but I was hoping and got some exposures that were both normal and redscale at the same time. This one was basically papier maché and is really quite rugged. Since this one, I have used a number of other containers from small mint tins to chocolate boxes but my favourites are the cylinders. All of these have used film. I recently made a net for a workshop I do with children and adults which was a simple sheet of black card, cut in such a way that you could fold it into a fairly light tight box, assuming your cutting skills were reasonable. Inside this we used paper. The best thing to see is when you get a child to make their own camera, take the pics, make notes and then develop – Obviously there are failures until you know what size the pinhole is but that helps develop their philosophical approach – When it works and they see an image appear it is great!
I don’t just use homemade cameras though and have quite a collection of others – Holga WPC 120; Pinholga, Zero 612b; Pinhole Blender mini 35; Pinhole Blender 120; Diana Multi Pinhole Operator; Diana F+! Hang on I’m struggling here, got too many, I think I have a problem! There are others but these are the ones I use most, there is always a pinhole in my bag!
I have been fortunate to be included in a number of books and online interviews and have published my own collection of images in Pinhole and Plastic
At the end of Pinhole week you can upload a photo to the World Pinhole Day website and become part of an incredible archive of just pinhole photographs! And this year it’s not just one day either – Pinhole Day has become Pinhole week, oh Heaven!