UK based Martyn Hearson has been experimenting with using the pinhole function on the classic Diana F+ camera and has been getting some seriously impressive results. We talked to him about the joys of shooting with a plastic lens camera and how attitudes towards film photography are shifting.
Hello Martyn, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey, i’m Martyn and it’s great to be asked to answer a few questions. I’m a film photographer, uni photography graduate and now run a film lab - that’s super handy! When i’m not at work in the lab, I’m often out and about creating, making or building something or other. I’ve got to blame my Grandad for that. He’s always been a tinkerer in his spare time and was a professional photographer too, so I think he’s got a lot to answer for.
Ever since shooting that first roll of film through his Pentax ME Super, I was hooked. Recently, i’ve developed a love for pinhole photography. Today everything is about speed and everyone is so impatient (guilty), so simplifying everything to a box, a tiny hole and some film forces you to slow down that little bit. You have to think that little bit differently, and that pushes creativity. I love the wait, the anticipation and the hope that the image in your head turns into a reality. The uniqueness and failures of every shot keeps drawing me in every time.
How did you discover the Diana F+ and why do you choose to shoot with a plastic 120 film camera?
I’ve always enjoyed testing out new cameras, experimenting with different techniques and manipulating film using alternative processes, so it wasn’t long before I stumbled on the world of plastic fantastic cameras. Whenever you pick the Diana F+ up, you can’t help but have fun with it. It’s small, cheap, super lightweight, very versatile and can handle a bit of a beating, and so is great for chucking in a bag, or coat pocket, and taking it everywhere.
I love the character you can create in every image. The dreamy plastic lens, fringing and the vignetting, combined with the ability to be able to shoot with the naturally ethereal characteristics of a pinhole, creates a perfect combo which can’t be beaten. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised with the sharpness of the pinhole and I think it often gets overlooked as a pinhole camera.
The ferris wheel photo was one of the first pinhole images I took, testing out both the Diana and pinhole photography, and from there I knew it was going to be a perfect match. Whilst i’ve mostly used mine to get into pinhole photography, I can imagine it being very versatile for other subjects too and have got a few ideas i’d like to try out.
I love being able to use the characteristics of the Diana to my advantage and accentuate the mood in an image. Shooting B&W film manipulates the dreamy plastic lens to create dark and moody scenes. Landscapes have always been a favourite to shoot, especially forests and river scenes, so that has always been a natural choice. Using the long exposures of the pinhole allows you to capture movement in the image, such as the flowing water or swaying of branches. I think the imperfections of the Diana (and pinhole photography in general) adds a mystery to each image, which can’t be replicated any other way.
Do you think attitudes are shifting towards more experimental, analogue photography methods now? Have you noticed a change?
Absolutely, and i’m all for it! I see hundreds of images through the lab every day, from party snaps on a disposable to high end commercial shoots for companies, but i’m
always drawn to the abstract, experimental images. It’s so easy to snap away on your phone, but it lacks creativity. It’s fascinating and inspiring to see so many people either rediscovering film, or starting out their film journey for the first time.
We’re constantly seeing new techniques being tried out, like using multiple exposures, homemade pinholes or using waterproof disposables to create ethereal underwater images. New films which push experimentation, such as LomoChrome Metropolis or LomoChrome Purple, have been great for the community. Everyone still loves to shoot the occasional expired film ... it’s a bit of a risk, but just got to hope for the best! There’s always that little uncertainty with shooting film and that keeps drawing people back.
Any tips for people wanting to try out the Diana F+?
Expect some anomalies! Embrace the imperfections, the light leaks, the blurry edges and use them to your advantage. Try not to get tied up in the technicalities. I find it more fun to guess exposure times by counting in your head and, if you haven’t got a tripod, balance the camera on a rock or wooden fence post. The ferris wheel photo was taken with the camera balanced on a lifebuoy ring. When i’m shooting pinholes on the Diana, it’s often impractical to use the viewfinder, so the framing and composition are all imagined. It’s exciting to wait and hope that the image turns out how I imagined. That’s all part of the fun.
If you were to invent a film camera what would it do?
A variable focal length 120 pinhole camera so you could change the field of view would be pretty interesting. If I’m just shooting day to day, I can never decide between colour and B&W, so to be able to load both and switch between the two would be pretty handy.
To see more of Martyn's work check out his Instagram page.