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Pinhole Perspectives

The images in this gallery were created using simple pinhole cameras. Pinhole photographs, like impressionist paintings, capture overall visual effects rather than sharp details. Colors can have oddly unnatural tints or look smeared and blurry. Exposures are long, so images of people, animals, trees in the wind—of anything that moves—also blur. Everything, no matter how close to or distant from the camera, looks almost in focus and details, even entire images, become soft-edged impressions rather than the sharply focused images we expect from photography. So working with these cameras and the images they produce requires a shift in expectation, attitude, and perspective.
My commercial work is digital and precise. Pinhole photography gives me a respite from that precision, because pinhole cameras are low-tech: they use film and don't have viewfinders, let alone screens. So the medium is unpredictable, one dependent on serendipity, especially when you use it, as I often do, to photograph people, who move often and unpredictably, rather than to shoot still subjects like land- and cityscapes.

The concept of focusing an image through a tiny hole apparently dates to prehistoric northern Africa—a tiny hole in a dark tent reveals an upside-down picture of what's outside in the bright sunlight. Leonardo wrote about the principle, and it was first used in photography in the 1850s. 
Pinhole cameras are so simple that they consists only of a light-tight box with a lid and film inside, a thin brass plate with a tiny pinhole in it. That's it. No glass or plastic lens, often no real shutter. People often DIY them from tightly closable mint or oatmeal boxes with a sheet of film inside and a piece of soda can with a pinhole in it.  A piece of electrical tape over the pinhole keeps light out until you're ready to shoot. You get 1 shot per camera, so if you intend to make more than one photograph it's best to make a few of them.
I use two pre-made pinhole cameras, (is one or are both homemade because that fact would be interesting to mention)  both of which take roll film, so I can take multiple images on a roll instead of just one image on a single sheet of film per camera. One, a Zero Image 69, has movable format blades inside, so I can change formats from 6X4.5 to 6X6 to 6X7 to 6X9cm between rolls of film. The other, made in Poland by Vermeer, is a curved plane panoramic camera that takes a 6X13.5cm image. The curved plane keeps the entire width of the frame the same distance from the pinhole so the edges of the photo aren't distorted. Neither camera has a viewfinder, and both have very simple shutters without any timing mechanism. Because the pinholes are tiny and don't let in much light, exposure times are long—about ½ second in bright sunlight. Once the film is exposed and developed I scan it and produce archival digital prints from the scans from which the images in this gallery are created.

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Photographs on paper are printed on archival paper with the printer manufacturer's archival inks.

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