When I started pinhole, you could say it was a reaction to everything else going on in my photographic life. I had been building a commercial photography practice and was doing well in digital photography. That was, until the great recession swallowed my practice in what felt like an instant.
As 2008 came to a close, I had a heap of ashes that had for years been one of my deepest passions. Life had put me in a position where I could do nothing but self reflect on what went right and what went oh so wrong. I quickly realized that I had developed an obsession with pixel perfection. I was in desperate need of an antidote. I knew “everything” about the mechanics of photography – ratios, numbers, formulas – but was losing perspective on the importance of photography.
I’m not sure I shot a single photo in 2009 or 2010. I didn’t even own a DSLR. But in 2011 I dug out some old pinhole cameras that I had just started to play with years before. My incredible wife and son gifted me my first Zero Image at that time as well. Having kept myself away from the art long enough, I started to pull at the old heartstring again.
One of the best ways to keep moving forward in your personal growth is to jump into things that make you a rookie again. While pinhole is photography, the “rules”, mechanisms, and aesthetics are so different from digital photography that it really is a different art. The first rolls came out so boring. Pinhole’s lack of detail quickly showed everything that was going wrong with my digital photography. For this reason, making pinhole my only photographic tool has been therapeutic in clearing out the creative blockage.
In sports, athletes often isolate a technique in order to focus on improving. For me, pinhole has acted in much the same way. By freeing myself from pixel perfection and techno features, I’ve been able to focus more on the creative side of things.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” -Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
Up until a month or two ago, I hadn’t shot a DSLR in years. I’m trying to bring my photography back into balance now. While I still shoot plenty of pinhole, I’m using the DSLR again. I’ve found that this time around, I’m able to see better much better. I check more angles, concern myself with light and movement more, and my ability to previsualize is greatly improved.
I won’t be dropping pinhole. Not now, not ever. It’s too important to me to have that reminder of what this art is about. That’s what ƒ/D has really been about. If pinhole is your only photographic practice and you’re happy with that, great. But for many of us, it is important to have a reminder of what’s important. Like getting out into the country for some fresh air – your soul needs this.
Work the pinhole process. Shoot a lot. Challenge your boundaries. No matter what you shot yesterday, your best work is yet to come.