It isn’t everyday that we, get to talk to one of the modern masters of Pinhole photography Justin Quinnell. Pinholes can seem intimidating but Justin breaks this misconception and explains how he got started taking 6 month long exposures and tells us how to do as well in the “Six Month Long Pinhole Exposures Tipster”!
How long have you been shooting and how did you discover/get into pinhole photography?
I started photography when I was 11, but got into pinhole photography around 20 years ago when I was head of photography at South Bristol College. Most kids couldn’t afford cameras so we built cameras out of drink cans. It was also a time when I was getting disillusioned with my own commercial work and getting involved with environmental politics. From then on I was hooked on pinholing.
Where did the idea of doing 6 month long exposures come from? How were the first few tries in doing it?
Paolo Gioli, Tarja Trygg, Maciek Zapior and many others were doing 6-month duration images before I did them. My first attempt was around 10 years ago with film and neutral density filters doing day and week long exposures, it was some years later I realized the paper didn’t need developing. It was before anyone had published a ‘how to’ and I just figured it out. The first 3-month duration image was on the suspension bridge in Bristol but I couldn’t redo it as people were phoning up thinking it was a bomb! I then put 25 up, some were full of water, some disappeared and one is still there 4 years on completely un-getatable under a big clump of bramble.
What is it about analogue photography that keeps you coming back for more?
I describe it as ‘Cows feet’ photography rather than using the word ‘analogue’. Traditional materials are wonderfully organic, Solagraphs can even show the gelatine being eaten by mould. Great stuff! There is also a link back 200 years to when Humphrey Davey and Thomas Wedgewood (who met originally in my home town of Bristol) were experimenting with a similar latent image process of photography. I love the madness of the pre-history of photography and its combination with digital image capture with solargraphs is wonderful.
A short time before I began my first set of images, my brother who loved astronomy died. Half way through the first set of images my father died. Being able to pinpoint the time events occurred on an image, births, marriages, deaths etc is special. (A friend recently suggested you could photograph both the wedding and the divorce settlement on the same photo!)
I think its is essential that we realize, not only how small we are in the solar system, but also how much we
should appreciate our short time on this planet. Solargraphs have the ability to open this up for everyone.
Learn how to do you own 6 month long pinhole exposure with this tipster by Justin Quinnell
If ever you find yourself in Bristol, you can contact Justin at pinholephotography.org for pinhole related workshops and lectures.