Eric Marais is the founder of the portable dark-room experience, STENOFLEX. We recently had the chance to ask him some questions and he was kind enough to answer us! Read on to find out more about his company, his interest in photography and what’s next for STENOFLEX!
Who are the people behind STENOFLEX?
I’m the creator of this pinhole camera, and I work alone on the whole development of it. Concerning production, STENOFLEX is 100% made in France by a high level, specialized paper workshop. They are very proud to collaborate with STENOFLEX and are very precious to me.
When were you first introduced to pinhole photography and why was it interesting to you?
I first discovered pinhole photography when going around a photography exhibition, stopping to look at a picture made with a cardboard box, a tiny hole and a sheet of silver-emulsion paper. Intrigued by this image and the way it was created, my curiosity led me to explore this reputedly very simple and humble art.
In October 2007, for my first show at the Galerie L’Aiguillage in Paris, I produced a series of 50 unique, individual pictures – each requiring an exposure time of 2 1⁄2 minutes – using a simple cardboard box that would become the ‘STENOFLEX’.
In June 2008, my many pinhole photographs of the Canal du Midi were displayed at the Musée Pierre-Paul Riquet de Saint- Ferréol, the singularity of his images well rendering all the oneiric potential of the canal.
In March 2014, I actually ‘printed’ the details of the painting ‘The Concert in the Egg’, long attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, in an egg shell.
You can view some of my artistic work here.
I still find pinhole photography a genuine focus of research for new images which, through its return to the primitive craft of photography, makes it possible to set up the conditions necessary to create the images themselves. Thus I manage to make the device that takes the shots an integral part of the view itself, transforming my images into unique, unusual and always poetic photographic objects.
I have largely centered my focus on STENOFLEX since 2008, and additionally, the courses on alternative practices that I started offering two years ago. I have written a book on pinhole photography, another on iPhone photography and a third about toy cameras, all published by Pearson Education. I’m invited to speak to companies and at festivals to present and explain the art and the challenges of alternative photography.
When and why did you start STENOFLEX?
My first show at the Galerie L’Aiguillage in Paris was a great success, especially for the little cardboard box I used. A few days later, I imagined, that it could come with paper, chemicals and a red film inside, a possibility to discover another way to practice photography.
We have a guess, but where does the name STENOFLEX come from?
In French we use to say “Sténopé” for pinhole (steno means little in ancient Greek). Flex, as you imagine, means flexible, easy to use. STENO-FLEX seemed to be the right combination for a portable camera obscura. I also wished for an easy to remember, international sounding name. STENOFLEX sounds like a kind of tribute to the story of the photography, especially to the marvelous Rolleiflex camera.
What other kind of photography methods do you practice?
I really like to use my iPhone which offers a large variety of effects. It’s an easy way to be creative.
Also, I’m very interested in cyanotype because of the inimitable blueprint color and the modesty of the practice gesture. Using paper, water and sun is a very quiet way to produce poetic images.
Original photographic methods impress me a lot. I remember the Heinrich Kühn exhibition in Paris that showed photographic works with experimental old techniques. It was a fabulous source of inspiration.
Why is it important to you that these original photography methods are preserved?
If you need to understand the process of formation of a photographic image, the original methods are the best way of comprehension. You must manage with light, time, optics… notions which tend to be ignored today.
Practicing original photography methods is like a journey in a time of science, wonder and beauty.
What’s next for STENOFLEX?
I imagine STENOFLEX will seduce more people all over the world. Lomography staff and I are working on this target.
I also think that STENOFLEX will grow in importance with education because it appears to be a great learning tool.
I actually develop new photographic boxes using very alternative process. A clue? One of them will be green…
In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference between digital photography and analogue methods, like STENOFLEX?
As you know, digital offers the pleasure of immediacy, but with STENOFLEX, it’s a question of time. You will never make the same picture twice. It will be your own personal creation that you will proudly keep and share. Producing a STENOFLEX picture is a craft. Perception of time passing, impatience and surprise of discovery make STENOFLEX an unique experience and a singular pleasure.
Thanks very much to Eric for his time and for his fantastic work with STENOFLEX. If you are interested in seeing some of his work face to face in France, you can do so in Nantes here and here, and in Paris here and here. We are so pleased to be able to share his great product in our Online Shop!