Category Archives: Interviews

Nils Karlson – Earth Stands Still

Friends –
I feel I’ve let you down. You see, I’ve known for a few weeks now that Nils Karlson’s book, “Earth Stands Still”, would be coming via crowdfunding. I’ve known this whole time that it was going to be a triumph of pinhole minimalism. But due to some travel and a mixup, I’m getting this announcement out a few days late. To say the book is flying off the shelves is an understatement, and I’m so happy to see that Nils’s work is being received so well. So for those of you who miss out, I apologize!

You have to check out Nils’s work. What follows is the ƒ/D interview with him, along with some sample imagery. Have a gander, and then head over to his IndieGoGo – and fast! There’s barely any copies left, and it is a limited printing.

All photos ©Nils Karlson 2016[spacer height=”20px”]

ƒ/D: How did you discover your passion for photographing coastal areas in this impressionistic way? Is it a vision that you had been searching for? Did you start with some happy accidents that developed into something more? Something else?
NK: It started out with a rather usual approach, trying to record the scene as it appeared in front of my eyes. But I have never found a true connection to my subject by this. This changed when I stumbled over an excellent book – „Liquid Light“ by Fabien Baron – at the photobook exhibition in Cologne 2014. It featured the most minimal and quiet photos of the seascape I have ever seen: All long exposure images, featuring the horizon dead centre in a vertical frame. This became my starting point for this leg of the journey, and several concepts in respect of technical approach evolved from here.

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What influence has the shore had on other aspects of your life?
As long as I can remember I was drawn to the sea. We used to spend summer vacations at the North Sea, and I was always fascinated by the view, sound, scent, and feel. Today, I love the vastness, when you can see for miles and miles. In the densely populated area I live in, you will not find that. There will always be some kind of obstruction. Also the light has a unique character, especially in the very early or late hours. I travels through a lot of atmopshere, where it gets scattered and incredibly soft. Fortunately, my wife loves the sea, too – and it is a great place to bring our dogs!

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These sorts of minimalist impressionist photos leave so much space for the viewer to explore their own feelings in the scene. What do you find yourself getting from them?
The answer lies within he question – it is space what I am looking for. Vast spaces, where the eye can wander without obstacles. Silence is made of vast spaces bare of distraction, and silence might be the most profound factor i am searching for.

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You quote lyrics from the band No Omega in your book, a passage questioning modern society’s priorities. The photos in the book are like an epiphany of calm, while No Omega is anything but. Can you talk about how you relate this harsh music to your nature photography?
That’s a long, and probably confusing story, but I will try to make it somehow cohesive. Ever since I can remember, I had difficulties to filter sensory impressions, especially noise. This put a lot of stress on me, and the first device to control all these impresions was sister’s first walkman. Wearing headphones, I was able to control sound from the outer world as well as the crippling voice of self­soubt (latter one only to a small degree). This brought me to music, and to the drums when I was about eleven. The more ferocious and noisy the music, the better it works as a shield – bury the sound under another sound. It was a progression from bands like Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull over Anthrax, a lot of bay area thrash and death metal. As I found the lyrics of most bands well beyond cheesy, I expanded my vocabulary to hardcore and eventually lots of political grindcore and experimental bands. Listening to all that rather noisy music used to be my safety blanket. But after all these years, it started to wear off. When my wife and me had a vacation on La Palma (Canary Islands) in 2009, it was the first time I was confronted with silence. Actually, this trip was the foundation for pretty much everything I do in the photographic realm these days. Since then, it has become like a quest for me – seeking silence. I seek the most quiet dialogue with the landscape. When I crate these photos, I never listen to music. I don’t need to. The problem is that I do not find that silence where I live. That’s where I fall into old patterns and use music as a suit of armor. But still, I find the lyrical content of music to be a crucial factor, and I am always looking for bands who are passionate and authentic. No Omega is one of these bands, and I find myself in their music to a point which is beyond my means of written expression. Actually I have a quite braod taste in music, with a lot of Indie, old (and old­sounding) Emocore, and instrumental bands with a „cinemascope approach“ balancing the fury. I live in a constant state of contradictions existing simultaneously anyway, and I have stopped believing in the concepts of absolute truth. Embrace Ambivalence.

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There are many studies of the shore in this book, and I’m sure many many that didn’t quite make the cut. How do you choose?
Even in high quality photo books, I often miss a cohesive story, flow, and dramaturgy. My goal was to treat the book like a musical album. Have an Intro, build and release some tension, finish on a a strong, but subtle note. Creating an organic flow of light, colour, and atmopshere was the most time consuming aspect. A lot of strong and beautiful photos do not appear in this book, as they just did not fit into the flow. Other photos, which I found to be just „quite decent“ without context, proved to support the story, leading to a perfect sequence of images. Editing is hard though. Sometimes you have to push your favourite kid off the cliff.

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What technologies did you use to shoot these photos? Were they all pinhole?
For seascapes, I love to work with long exposures, whether in a normal camera or lensless.

In Earth Stands Still, one of the three chapters is dedicated to the vision of the pinhole camera. Isn’t it amazing how the very stripped down to the bare bones concept of the pinhole camera yields such atmopshere and mystery? Throughout the few years I am using pinholes, I have tested a lot of different cameras. The difference in the way they render a photo is stunning, having each a distinct characteristic on their own, just like some lenses. Also, I find it to be fascinating to work without any kind of finder – everything is more of a guess, from composition to the inaccuracy of the manual exposure. The pinhole rules out all the „merits“ of the technical revolution, and becomes much more a part of the person using it.

Another technique I use to depart from the scene in front of my eyes towards the image inside my head, are intentional camera movements. These are inspired by Australian photographer Steve Coleman and other artists he featured on his blog. Ethis technique benefit from happy accidents, though I also practiced different movements with a small digital camera before transferring the knowledge into the realm of film.

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Michael D Hawley – Raw Pinhole

Michael D Hawley grew up in photography. His father lugged cameras, and eventually, so did he. It’s an introduction to the art that I’m sure many of us share – I know I do.  I still have my very first photograph sitting around here somewhere – it’s a portrait of my parents and their best friend, all of them laughing and hunched down, because I kept pointing the K1000 further and further down as my 6 year old fingers fussed with the focus ring.

It’s a bond that’s formed with this art form – whether you pursue something else in life or stick with photography professionally – the smell of an old camera still brings back a lot of warm memories. Michael stuck with photography, and made it his career. He lives in Vancouver, BC and works as an independent cinematographer, photographer, and camera operator. I think you’ll see that professional discipline in the work displayed below.

After taking in the interview below, be sure to check out Michael’s website (, filled with both lensed and lensless images, plus some great motion picture work.

Your bio mentions that you grew up in a family that often had cameras around, and your father lugging the heavy home video equipment of the day for the family goings on. Eventually your mom swapped your pellet gun for a camera. If you had to pinpoint the value you got from this early photographic experience, what do you think it would be?
Yes my Father’s love for capturing experiences was very much my introduction to cameras. He was never very interested in the art of photography but an avid documenter, both with stills and video so the camera was always around. Like many people I was fascinated as a child at magic of freezing time. I use to spend hours scanning over any old black and white image I could find, wondering who the people where in the photographs and what their lives must of been like; It was a time machine for me. When I look back there were a few moments that really turned my interest toward photography. The first was in high school I was never very good at writing so I convinced my teachers to let my friends and me produce short videos on the topic instead of writing essays. With in-camera and deck to deck editing really it was much more work then writing but we had a lot of fun; our classmates loved the videos and hey we got a good mark. The second influential time for me was when I was a teenager and my mom sent me away in the summers to work on my uncles farms. One of the ranches was in a very remote part of British Columbia’s interior called Falkland. It was a very beautiful cattle farm that lay in the bottom of a valley. There was no one around, the town only had about 500 residents and out of shear boredom I picked up my aunt’s video camera and started shooting the farm and surroundings, this was when I really began to observe light and composition even though I probably would not of been able to communicate it at the time. The next and I would say most important time of my development was when I first introduced to a Twin Lens Rolleiflex this of course was when digital had already essentially taken over. I could not believe the look of the images and how beautiful medium format film is. What followed was pivotal to my development was learning how to meter light and really understand exposure. Also shooting medium format restricted me to twelve exposures and really forced me to ask myself why I was taking this image, what did I like about it.

In the Desert
[singlepic id=387 w=600]In the Desert, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]



It’s not often that we see a professional photographer devoting so much of their portfolio and online presence to pinhole. What is it that draws you to pinhole?
After the Rolleiflex I became a camera junkie and with digital taking over I found many cheap sales on incredible second hand film cameras some really wonderfully crafted tools. Which took me all the way to the earliest and most primitive camera the pinhole camera. I instantly fell in love with pinhole it was so raw and basic. To me when the elements all come together the images just feel so surreal, like stepping into a dream. Because pinhole is so simple of a camera with a fixed aperture and self controlled shutter, no focusing, no choice of lenses you can really just think about placement. I have always felt that getting a really good wide angle shot is much more difficult to achieve because you have many more three dimensional elements to consider in composition but can be much more rewarding for the viewer. Since pinhole is super wide angle when you bring your eyes right up to the camera essentially what you see is what you get and with its long exposures I love how the pinhole camera captures motion, like paint strokes on a canvas.

A Perfect Night
[singlepic id=385 w=600]A Perfect Night, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=386 w=600]Floating, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]



How did you discover pinhole photography?
I discovered pinhole photography while visiting my local camera shop Beau Photo in Vancouver. Beau sold Holga pinhole cameras and I thought it would be fun to play around with one and a camera for $50 did not seem like much risk. I love the Holga 120PC the camera is awesome it gave me some of my favourite pinhole shots. I really like the F192 aperture on it allowing for some long exposures. I also picked up the Holga 120WPC panoramic camera and had great success with it. I often found that Holga cameras would either give me my best shots or ruin them with light leaks, backs falling off, forgetting to take the lens cap off etc. so I wanted to find a camera I knew was not going cause quite so many problems. Which lead me to the Zero Image 612F multi format camera. The Zero Image is a handmade camera and it’s polished teak wood finish and brass controls are almost as beautiful as the photographs it takes.

Time Travel
[singlepic id=396 w=600]Time Travel, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]


New Day
[singlepic id=392 w=600]New Day, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]



Do you feel that pinhole improves your professional photography? How so?
Yes I do feel pinhole has improved my professional work. It has really taught me how important camera placement is and further to that it has taught me a great deal about what makes for an interesting wide angle shot. Pinhole has also showed me the benefits to keeping things simple and exploring new mediums. I often wish the professional world would be more open to taking creative risks and trusting an older, slower process.

Kilmainham Jail
[singlepic id=390 w=600]Kilmainham Jail, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]


Siwash Rock
[singlepic id=395 w=400]Siwash Rock, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]



One of the hardest aspects of pinhole photography is the visualization before the shot. The “seeing”, as it were. How do you approach your shot visualization?
I try to approach locations and scenes that will utilize the camera’s strengths which I feel are it’s long exposures and super wide perspective. I will look for things that are in motion and will give the viewer as sense of movement, like clouds, trees or water. I will also look for locations that will create a good sense of depth and height. I always move the camera in a little closer to the scene then what would appear natural to the eye. Pinhole is always a bit of guess work and with time the guessing becomes less.

Saturna East Point Pinhole
[singlepic id=394 w=600]Saturna East Point Pinhole, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]



What do you find to be the biggest challenge with pinhole photography? What stops you?
I do not find many challenges with shooting pinhole photography as the camera is very simple. However since the pinhole camera has many limitations in its simplicity it is not the best tool for many projects. The biggest challenge for me with pinhole is in the printing. The camera vignettes heavily and more so with panoramic, the exposure varies greatly from the center to the edges and I find it is very hard to strike that balance when it comes to the print. However when everything comes together the prints to me are stunning and feel so unique. Another challenge with pinhole and which I think might be its greatest is trying to get people to look at the camera as a legitimate camera and art form, I find it is often dismissed too easily.

Late Light
[singlepic id=391 w=600]Late Light, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]


Palace Window
[singlepic id=393 w=600]Palace Window, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]



You’ve photographed some notable actors – Gary Oldman, Pierce Brosnan – how soon till we see you attempting this with a pinhole? 🙂
I have been fortunate to photograph some very talented people and even though I really love pinhole photography I don’t think I would use it much for portraiture. Pinhole with its wide perspective and warped edges is not very forgiving on the face. Perhaps if the scene called for a dramatic surreal effect, or perhaps I would maybe mix some elements in the post work. There is a pinhole photographer I follow on Flickr Scott Speck who has shot some interesting portraits with pinhole, I enjoy seeing his work.

There are so many talented pinhole photographers out there and I am always excited to see what they come up with next, always an inspiration to me!


In the Morning
[singlepic id=388 w=600]In the Morning, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]


Kilauea Volcano
[singlepic id=389 w=600]Kilauea Volcano, ©Michael D Hawley 2016[/singlepic]




ƒ/D Interviews Jana Obscura

Today we’re excited to bring you our interview with Jana Uyeda, AKA Jana Obscura. You can’t get very far in the pinhole world without crossing her path in one way or another. She is a vocal proponent of the pinhole format on social media as well as on the podcast she co-hosts, The Pinhole Podcast (archives, Twitter). Read on to learn about her vision in pinhole, how she built community around pinhole, and get introduced to anamorphic pinhole. Afterwards, be sure to check out her website, Instagram, and her Flickr page for additional pinhole and other photographic goodness.

How did you first come upon the world of pinhole photography? What convinced you to stay?
I learned about pinhole photography through Jeff Soderquist who purchased a Zero Image 2000 at Blue Moon Camera in Portland. There were also a number of pinhole groups sharing images on Flickr and I was inspired by the wide angles, the distortions and the unique character of pinhole photography. At the time I was experimenting with film and plastic cameras but when I saw the possibilities of pinhole, I got hooked.

You often accentuate perspective in your pinhole photos. Is this intentional for your pinhole work? Or subconscious?
I would say it’s due to necessity, or maybe it’s a necessity due to my laziness. I rarely carry a tripod with me, in fact it’s one of the reasons I enjoy pinhole photography. The cameras are smaller, light weight and I don’t need a lot of gear to shoot. I also don’t carry light meters or paper or notebooks either, I just bring my camera, film and a mini tripod. This means I spend a lot of time shooting from the floor looking up or using flat surfaces as a makeshift tripod. It is also my experience that many places don’t allow tripods, so my use of floors and handrails means I’m capturing extreme perspectives.

[singlepic id=356 w=600]Sagrada Familia, ©Jana Uyeda 2016[/singlepic]


What other aspects of pinhole do you find yourself trying to exploit?
My first experiments focused on stillness and movement. Since pinhole is a longer exposure, I was looking to frame motion within a motionless environment. A passenger standing against the rails on my water taxi commute, plates on a lazy susan at a dim sum restaurant, shopping carts at Costco and flags waving in the wind. It was challenging because I had to be very aware of the exposure time and my subject. If the exposure time was too long, the subject in motion would ghost out of the image entirely.

[singlepic id=352 w=600]Dim Sum, ©Jana Uyeda 2016[/singlepic]


Subjects ghosting out are exactly why I started experimenting with what I called multi-lapsing – multiple exposures timed when people were in almost the same place to build up one exposure. Which reminds me, I need to do more of. What do you feel the challenges of pinhole add to your creative thought pattern? Do you find anything you’ve learned in pinhole changing how you shoot in other formats?
I think the challenges of pinhole make me more adventurous. I know there are elements I cannot control and I cannot always anticipate how much the final image will capture, even if I know the angle of view for my camera. There were a few months when I experimented with infrared 4×5 pinhole which I thought would be insane and it turns out, it was insane – in a good way! To your other question about pinhole changing how I shoot other formats, I can genuinely say I’ve become a dedicated medium format shooter since I started with pinhole photography. When I shoot with my Rolleiflex I find myself using that lower angle to emphasize perspective, something you noticed from my pinhole work. I’m realizing that perhaps I’m more comfortable with the Rolleiflex because the TLR allows me to shoot from a lower angle. In my photography school I’d worked with 35mm almost exclusively, but since I started shooting pinhole I’ve made investments in developing and scanning equipment. I have a workflow based on 120 film now.

[singlepic id=357 w=600]4×5 IR, ©Jana Uyeda 2016[/singlepic]


As if pinhole photography isn’t obscure enough of a photographic form, you tend to work quite a bit in anamorphic pinhole. For the folks who are interested in anamorphic, what do you feel are the best subjects to start shooting anamorphic and learning the format?
Thanks for the reminder, I need to shoot more this summer. For those interested in anamorphic pinhole, I would recommend looking for straight, horizontal lines to learn about exposure, angle of view and how to work your camera. Anamorphic is a lot of fun but it takes a few rolls to understand how to position the camera and expose it correctly. Underexpose and your image will have dark bands with no shadow detail. Overexpose and the image will have blown out bands where the light hits the film plane. I have been most successful with BW film but there are so many talented photographers doing amazing work with C41. I started shooting fences and rows of books in the library which helped me “see” and then I tried shooting more deliberately for that anamorphic bend.

[singlepic id=354 w=600]Palm Trees, ©Jana Uyeda 2016 (anamorphic pinhole)[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=351 w=600]Chairs, ©Jana Uyeda 2016 (anamorphic pinhole)[/singlepic]


Is there any subject matter that you try to shoot with pinhole and just can’t seem to get the shot? Why not?
Sunlight and sunbeams. This isn’t a big deal since I live in Seattle, but when the sun comes out and I point my camera in that direction I get crazy light sprays across my image. There are pinhole photographers who do gorgeous work with sunlight and it creates this lovely rainbow of light on their image. I just can’t figure it out.

[singlepic id=353 w=600]IR Mess, ©Jana Uyeda 2016[/singlepic]


I hear ya – I lived in Seattle for a couple years and from November through June the sky in particular can be a real challenge. How does your creative process tend to flow? Are you looking for something in particular? Or do you come across something that seems interesting and try to find how to shoot it?
I look for interesting subjects that I can really get close to. Since pinhole has such a wide angle of view, I feel I lose too much detail when I shoot a broad landscape scene. When I shoot sunrise shots near the water I look for rocks or other items of interest that I can incorporate in the foreground. If I’m shooting a carousel or flags on a boat I look for something stationary and often I’ll place something deliberately in front of the camera. When I’m travelling I let people fill the space because the shape of their motion is perfect. Maybe a good challenge to myself is to shoot broad, sweeping landscapes and find a new way to make those pinholes more interesting to me. I saw some Hiroshi Sugimoto prints in person recently and I’m inspired to shoot simpler. I’m going to try that this summer.

[singlepic id=355 w=600]Pont del Petroli, ©Jana Uyeda 2016[/singlepic]


Besides your personal photography, you regularly contribute to a number of other publications, help run Pdexposures, and co-host the Pinhole Podcast. It sounds exhausting! What was the least expected benefit from doing all this?
The community. Connecting with like-minded photographers from across the globe is the most surprising and the greatest benefit. Beyond Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day there are postcard exchanges, meetup groups, gallery shows, DIY classes and art projects. Pinhole is not something I assume most people know about outside of their high school b&w photo class, but I feel there’s a growing trend towards embracing this form of photography. Social media plays a big part in bringing the community together, though I think most pinhole photographers also have stories about random interactions with a fellow pinholer in person. We’re weirdos and we’re out there and it’s awesome.

Do you have any recommendations for people who’d want to start up a pinhole club in their local area?
Yes, just do it! I met Todd Schlemmer through Twitter years ago and even though he lives in Seattle, I’d never met him until Twitter brought us together. He’s been building various 3D printed pinhole cameras and eventually started a meetup for local pinhole folk to connect. It’s been great. I get asked questions all the time when I’m waiting patiently for my exposures and I hope I’ve encouraged people to try pinhole. I usually end up chatting with a mix of film photographers, students, and creative builders then invite them to join us on our next stroll. Blue Moon Camera in Portland does a fantastic job of promoting pinhole photography as well which sustains a network of artists in the northwest. So my recommendations would be, use social media, connect and join photography meetups in your area.

[singlepic id=358 w=600]WPPD 2014, ©Jana Uyeda 2016[/singlepic]



Steven Dempsey – Pinhole Through a Filmmaker’s Eye

Steven Dempsey is a storyteller. After years as a musician, he started a filmmaking company where he produced documentaries and music videos. Nearly a decade of producing films has ingrained in him the motion photographer’s sense of progress in a scene. He’s certainly not the first motion photographer turned still photographer I’ve seen, but you can always feel the transitional moment of a story when the work is done by a motion photographer.

Steven, who shoots his pinholes digitally with a body cap, has found that the unique properties of pinhole gives him a powerful tool to realize his storytelling vision. As you’ll soon see below, his photos are more like short, single frame vignettes. One can see the transition from scene to scene – a kinetic energy that is off camera, in the viewers’ mind.

I hope you enjoy this short conversation with Steven. Afterwards, we invite you to check out his website, his blog, and especially his Slate pieces on pinhole – Through a Pinhole and Pictures in Motion.


You and your wife are traveling the country in an RV – this is a dream for any photographer to have access to so much location. How do you make sure, in these new locations, that you find shooting locations that hold meaning for you?
I have always had a childlike wonder for the world around me. So many things inspire me no matter where I am. I crossed a threshold a few years ago where the camera became a part of me, like an extra limb or a new set of eyes. When I look around me, I see photographs in my mind before I even look through the viewfinder. The physical location is only part of the equation for me. The circumstances have to be right, whether it’s the light or the time of day, or if tourists are around making it difficult to capture the scene, etc.

When I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time a couple of years ago, it was more spectacular than I could have possibly imagined. There were thousands of people there for the sunset. I’ve never seen so many selfie sticks and iPads! I shot a handful of meaningless photographs and decided to spend more time just experiencing the place. The next morning I was there for the sunrise at 5:30 and I shared that spectacle with only four other people. This was my Grand Canyon! I wanted to capture how I felt right there and my response to the sun rising. I shot those photographs in black and white because it more closely approximated the wonderful simplicity of the canyon in silhouette.

These are the experiences I seek out when I arrive at a new location. I spend a little time snapping the usual iconic shots and then, when I relieve myself of that pressure, I begin to look around the area for more interesting details. I’m particularly drawn to compositions that are devoid of any modern elements. If I can help it, I won’t include people dressed in modern day clothing and I’ll also avoid cars or anything that can date the photo. Timelessness is a big part of my imagery.

Having said all that, I am sometimes more drawn to an abandoned town next to the big postcard view. Even an old chair can have the same impact as the grandest mountain, it just depends on the photographer’s perspective. It all boils down to authenticity, finding the truth in something…that’s what I’m after at the end of the day.

[singlepic id=310 w=600]Forgotten Abode, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


You have a number of stories that you’ve put together on Adobe Slate, which seems to be a great storytelling platform. For other photographers considering it, what are the pros and cons that you’ve found so far?
The pros are easy to talk about. It’s portable because I have my iPad with me most of the time and I can write a story just about anywhere. I’m more inclined to actually write blog posts because of this convenience. Slate is also now available on the web so it can be accessed by anyone with a computer. Because Adobe includes templates, the look of all my stories is similar which almost feels like a kind of branding for me. The finished product is always elegant and I don’t have to worry about having to design and maintain my own blog, etc.

The big downside is that it is in a proprietary format and if, at some point, Adobe either goes out of business or chooses to stop supporting the app, what happens to all of my work?

The most important piece of advice I would give anyone considering using Slate or anything else like it is to make sure you have strong content. Story is king and it doesn’t matter how fancy a wrapper you put around bad writing, it’s still bad writing and will not engage an audience.

[singlepic id=316 w=600]Silhouette at the Water’s Edge, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


You mention to me that you feel that in your prior venture, Americonic Films, you “said all [you] had to say with video and found a new passion in photography.” How did you know that it was time to find something new? What new things have you discovered in your creative expression since making the switch?
I had been working as a filmmaker for about eight years, concentrating on documentaries and music videos. Additionally, I was creating nature vignettes for myself. I noticed a trend in my shooting style where my personal videos were beginning to look more like photographs. I quit moving the camera around and found that I really liked the sense of calm it created. Meanwhile, in the real world, things were taking a nose dive. When the recession hit in 2007, people didn’t have the money to pay for videos. Project opportunities eventually dried up.

A friend of mine had just gotten the newly-released Canon 5D Mark II and wanted me to review it. I was only thinking of its video capabilities at the time but I began shooting photographs too. I kept the setting on black and white and soon became addicted to capturing stills. I barely used the video setting at all. As soon as I had to give the camera back, I ordered my own.

I remember one particular photograph that changed my life. There was an old broken paddle in my backyard (we lived by a lake at the time). It didn’t look like anything special but I shot it anyway. Later, when I looked at the image on my computer screen I was actually shocked. It had a magical quality to it, like the camera had transported it to another world. I stared at the black and white photograph on my screen for days. After that experience, I began “seeing” things on a more profound level and I knew photography was the next important chapter in my life.

I believe that, in order to make good pictures, It takes patience and skill. I think an artistic sensibility is also an important element. I watched an Ansel Adams documentary once and a commentator, talking about Adams, said, “A poet has access to the same words as everyone else. He (or she) just knows how to put them in the right order.” Similarly, a photographer extracts all the important elements from a scene and makes a unique photograph.

[singlepic id=314 w=600]Still From a Dream, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


In Pictures in Motion, you talk about your transition from video to photography and the mental shift that that entailed. Specifically, you mention that the long exposure photograph “frees you from the shackles of split-second shutter speeds”. Do you find that, in pinhole, the challenge becomes finding subject matter that is made more meaningful by the passage of time?
I absolutely approach pinhole photography with a different mindset. I want to exploit what it has to offer. I don’t necessarily see the point in shooting a landscape that has no movement with a pinhole because it will just look like an out-of-focus photograph. This is more of an issue in the digital pinhole world. I have seen almost tack sharp images from photographers using large format film. So, with the limitations of my medium, I will include water or a person or clouds or something that is showing the passing of time. The blurring that occurs from long exposure motion also becomes the subject itself and is the focal point of my composition on many occasions.

[singlepic id=313 w=600]Self Portrait, Field, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


You often take pinhole photos that include a self-portrait element. What was the creative impetus for this approach? What is your process in creating these photos?
I’m the best model I know! I show up on time and I do everything that’s asked of me 🙂 Actually, because of my lifestyle on the road and my preference for getting up at the crack of dawn, I don’t have access to other people so including myself is the most efficient way to do it. I feel like including a human element in my images elevates them and helps with their ethereal quality. I’ve always been interested in ghosts and distorted reality. Sometimes I want to give the impression that my camera has serendipitously captured something otherworldly, unseen by the naked eye. That kind of thing just gets my adrenaline going.

My approach is usually spontaneous. I’m not the kind of person who will go scouting out a location in advance, look at all the data on sun positions and the like. I’ll have some vague idea of where I want to go based on a cursory search on Google. I have an app on my iPad called “Stuck on Earth” and it’s basically a mapping software that includes geo-tagged photos from Flickr. You pull up your location and can see photos people have taken all around the area. If I see something of interest, I’ll make a plan to go there.

The first thing I do is determine the light level and what shutter speed I have to work with. I’ve determined that my current pinhole is about f/114 and I keep my ISO at the camera’s native 200 as much as possible. If it’s a sunny day, I’ll only have a second or two of exposure time, if it’s dull, I’ll have about five or six seconds. If I include myself in the shot, I’ll sometimes have to move slower or faster than is natural when I trip the shutter based on the motion effect I want. It’s a pretty free-flowing process so one idea begets another and sometimes I’ll yield three or four good ideas during a single shoot. Of course, having instant access to a digital photo gives me a great advantage. If something doesn’t look right, I’ll simply do it again. I wouldn’t have that luxury shooting film.

[singlepic id=312 w=600]Self Portrait, Dock, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


In Pictures in Motion, you mention that you’ve “never been completely satisfied shooting images of beautiful scenery”. You expound on the point, mentioning that you don’t feel like they “belong to [you]”. That’s a very interesting thought and I almost sense some of what is described as “imposter syndrome” – where the individual senses a lack of legitimacy. Is that the root of your dissatisfaction? Or is it something else?
What an interesting question! I used to feel that way when I was a performing musician way back in the day. I would experience terrible stage fright and a feeling that I might be called out as a fraud because of my lack of confidence but I don’t feel that way about my photography.

What I was referring to in my blog post is a need I have to express my own individuality in my work…my own voice, if you like. I have the technical chops to produce a good conventional photograph but it doesn’t look much different to me than a hundred more like it on the web. Capturing a likeness of a place does not satisfy my inner creative appetite because when I look at one of these kinds of photographs a second time, it still looks the same as the first. There is not a need to use my imagination.

Shooting pinhole photographs is an entirely different experience. For me it’s all about using my imagination, from the moment I see a scene through capturing it through post production and finally to viewing the finished picture. It continually morphs with each step. My most favorite pinhole images keep telling new stories when I revisit them. It’s like layers of an onion being slowly peeled away. I find that this kind of abstract photography can mirror my state of mind. If I come to it with a particular emotion or feeling, it will influence how I see the image so it’s ever-changing. That doesn’t happen with a “regular” photograph. Like I said, a tree is just a tree. Sure there is some individuality in how I capture it but pinholing is in a different league. It is intensely satisfying down to the inner workings of my soul. Yes, seriously.

[singlepic id=311 w=600]Ferry House Ghost, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


That’s interesting that you mention your pinhole photos changing to “mirror [your] state of mind.” It reminds me of the Ansel Adams line, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” Do you find yourself looking to say something specific to your viewers with your images? Or do you perhaps prefer to stir yourself, and therefore, also stir your viewer?
I never consider an audience when I’m shooting. I’m only interested in stiring something inside myself.i don’t think this is selfish behavior, rather, it is pure expression. If I feel distracted by second-guessing what a viewer will think, the idea is already diluted.

[singlepic id=315 h=600]Pinhole Trail, ©Steven Dempsey 2016[/singlepic]


We applaud Steven in his willingness to share some insight into his ongoing pinhole work and I hope you’ve gained some insight into your own creative strides. Again, we encourage you to take a look at his website, his blog, and pay particular attention to his Slate pieces on pinhole – Through a Pinhole and Pictures in Motion.


Martin Martinsson – Movements

I first encountered Martin Martinsson’s work last year when perusing Flickr for pinhole work. It was his Movements 7 image that I found, and it was a perfect example of aesthetic in the everyday. When I dove deeper into his photos, I found a photographer who really understood spacial relationships – he clearly has the eye of an architect.

There’s a distinctively geometric pattern to his photos. In some of the photos, this geometry reaches out and grips you till you come to terms with the more subtle aspects of the photo. In other works, the geometry doesn’t hit you immediately, not till you let the image blur a little.

Martin’s work is often dripping with color and a moody tonality. He’s a photographer who’s bold style stands out immediately. He is also very skilled in an elusive practice: finding excellent imagery in the everyday hustle. Most of us can’t afford to pinhole full time, and so we have to fit it in around the rest of our lives.

Martin has been gracious enough to entertain our prodding questions below. I recommend you keep an eye on his work on Flickr, as he’ll soon be releasing additional photos.

Let’s start with your journey in photography. Did you start with pinhole? Or is it something you discovered later?
The pinhole camera was something I discovered a few years ago, so no, I did not start with pinhole photography at all! In fact I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. I remember that my parents were interested in photography and they both had some nice cameras laying around. Photography was always something present when I was a child and also discussed around the dinner table. I don’t really remember a particular starting point but when I was a teenager I thought photography was really a fun thing to do and I always tried to make an extra effort when I started taking photos myself. For a period of time, especially in my late teens and early twenties,  I took a lot of photos and I have box after box with old photos laying around the house.

My manual 35mm camera broke down about the same time as digital cameras really started to hit the market. I bought one of those small digital devices, but strangely digital photography killed my interest in taking photos. For me something was lost without the manual controls and I thought most modern cameras looked and felt horrible to handle…

About three years ago I decided to give photography another chance so I went to the store to buy me a new high end digital device with retro looks and manual controls. I haven’t got any type of formal training in photography so I really never knew anything about the technical or artistic aspects of photography. Except for framing, I always just pressed the shutter button and hoped for the best. I decided that this time I will take it more seriously – bought any kind of book about photography I could find – and started to play around with my new camera. Digital was really a fantastic way for me to learn more about the technique and to really try all those “what happens if I do this” or “how can I achieve this type of effect” – type of questions most beginners have.

After some time my wife got a pinhole camera as a birthday present from a friend. It is one of those paper cameras you have to assemble by yourself with the use of tape. I wasn’t even sure it was possible to find 35mm film any longer since I was under the impression film photography was a thing of the past. A visit to the local camera store proved me wrong. I bought a few rolls of film, stole the camera from my wife (I have absolutely no intention of giving it back) and started to shoot some film again. The photos looked fantastic! It was mind blowing!!

That started another journey, or maybe it was more like going back to square one. I was reminded of what attracted me to photography in the first place. I have barely touched my digital camera after that but I take more photos than ever!

[singlepic id=281 w=600]Waiting, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

Your Flickr feed is filled with great photography, both lensed and lensless. How has one form of photography influenced the other?
Thank you! That’s very flattering to hear. As I mentioned before, I used digital photography as a way to learn more about photography and once I got to know the camera a little better and was able to take photos that sometimes even looked better than the physical world, I became a little bit bored (easily done playing around in Photoshop or Lightroom). I noticed that I was not very interested in capturing the world as it is. Even making the photos that look “nicer” than reality is something I don’t find very stimulating.

I currently own about ten different cameras. I am not exactly sure what the influences would be, but I know that regardless of what I take photos of, I am aiming towards a somewhat different or unique look. My interest in analogue photography as a whole has always been about finding a special look that is in a way of out of my control. Adding an unexpected and uncontrollable element to the photos. That might be different things like a special type of film with unique characteristics, grain, physical defects on the negative, expired film or using a pinhole camera. All these things are possible to fake with a computer but I find that it is much more fun when there is a certain element of surprise.

Movements 1 – By Bike
[singlepic id=274 w=450]Movements 1 – By Bike, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

What is it about pinhole photography that attracts you to the artform?
The first time I got a roll developed I had no idea what to expect or even what the photos would look like. I didn’t have a light meter or anything to help with the exposures and mostly used my body, the ground, walls and statues instead of a tripod. I had never even used such a camera before. The photos that came out where blurry, with vignetting, weird colourings and sometimes with partially overlapping exposures. The photos also had a very unique look to them with a sort of dreamy characteristics. I absolutely loved it and in the beginning it was all totally out of my control how the photos turned out. I was hooked at once and haven’t really been able to put away that camera ever since.

After a while I started to learn a bit more about pinhole photography with its unlimited depth of field (or maybe more accurate unlimited out-of-focus) , bought a proper light meter and scanner, and got to know a little bit more about which types of film I like to use. My pinhole camera is also really small and convenient. It fit in almost all pockets so there is really no excuse not to take it with me. Besides, film is cheap (in comparison to Polaroid photography which is another passion of mine) so there is really no excuse not to experiment and to take as many photos as possible just for the fun of it. Not all of them are good, but it doesn’t really matter.

Pinhole cameras have a really unique character to them which I don’t really know how to describe in words. It just has a really special and unique look. Almost instant art.

Movements 5 – Commuting Underground
[singlepic id=275 w=600]Movements 5 – Commuting Underground, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

Movements 8 – Waiting at Kastrup
[singlepic id=276 w=600]Movements 8 – Waiting at Kastrup, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

I first came across your work when we featured your photo, “Movements 7” back in April. I loved this photo because you found a way to make something mundane so beautiful. In your Movements series, you focus on modes of travel. What was the inspiration for this series?
The idea behind the “movements” photo series was a combination of pure pragmatism in combination with and a simple creative idea that I wanted to explore. I am father of two children and I have a job which demands lots of extra working hours so my time is obviously very limited. I would actually like to walk around just take photos all day, but since time is so scarce I need to take advantage of any spare time. Such a moment is actually while commuting between kindergarten, grocery stores, work and the apartment. Travelling or moving around is something that takes up a lot of my time so why not take advantage of it and actually do something useful like taking photos?

The second idea I had, had something to do with the special characteristics of the pinhole camera. The long exposures open up lots of creative opportunities – either by using a stationary camera with moving subjects or vice versa. Since commuting means lots of moving around and lots of moving subjects I wanted to do a series about it. It is an activity that takes up quite a part of my life. It is also a part of my life filled with lots of frustration and waiting. On the other hand it can also be a moment of quality time with the family (or yourself) and some sort of (to use your words) mundane beauty which I thought was interesting to capture.

Movements 9 – Arriving at Triangeln in Malmö
[singlepic id=277 w=600]Movements 9 – Arriving at Triangeln in Malmö, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

Do you feel you’ve been successful in presenting the vision you pursued in Movements? Why or why not?
Actually I was quite disappointed at first with the results. The photos were taken during quite a long timespan and I have probably used up at least four-five rolls of film. From that batch there were only about 5-6 photos which caught my attention. I thought that was quite a meagre result considering what I normally get from a roll of 35mm pinhole. Quite a disappointment, but I have afterwards realized it was partly caused by the colour temperature of the light in the underground. The yellow light didn’t work really well in combination with slide films like Provia and Velvia and there were also a lot of underexposed photos caused by the fact that I forgot to calculate for reciprocity failure. The only photos which turned out ok, were shot in either daylight, or in situations where the light was really blue. I wasn’t really aware of that when I started the project. At least a lesson learned. I have continued to take photos in the underground and on trains but still haven’t developed and scanned the results. This time I have bought a Tungsten colour balanced film which I hope will work better!

Blue Underpass
[singlepic id=272 w=600]Blue Underpass, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

Your photo, “Coloured Underpass”, is stunning. It’s absolutely arresting. I’ve honestly had this photo open on my computer for 4 weeks now – I can’t stop looking at it. I need to know, how was this photo made? Is this a double exposure? Is it a glass hallway with lots of reflections? I must know!
I am so glad you like it! Maybe you will be disappointed now because there is really no trick! It is just a hallway between two office buildings at the Munich RE headquarters in Munich with coloured florescent lights. I was there at an open event last year when I noticed it. Each segment (leading to a different building) has its unique colour for making orientation easier. Each colour shift is an intersection between different underpasses and the floor consists of white pigmented concrete which has been polished so it reflects the light somewhat.

As I was taking photos of it, I realized that I needed to elevate the camera from the floor to get a better central perspective of the space. Luckily there was a wine bar in the building behind me so I went to pick up a drink with the tallest glass available to use it as a tripod – champagne!

Coloured Underpass
[singlepic id=273 w=600]Coloured Underpass, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

You have a fantastic sense of space and depth. To what do you attribute this ability to see? Are you trained in visual arts? Obsessed with shape? Something different?
That is very nice to hear. I don’t consider myself being a real photographer at all, just a guy who enjoys exploring things visually, and when I compare my work to some of the really good professionals out there I feel really humble regarding my own skills. On the other hand I have sold a few photos lately and there has been some attention in the internet which I would never have anticipated when I started so I must be doing something right?!

As I mentioned before I am not trained at all in photography and haven’t really had any artistic training except for my education as an architect. So shape, space and depth is something I work with all day but I really don’t know if there is a connection, at least not a conscious one. My day time job does have an influence on the type of subjects I find interesting like infrastructure or different type of “junk space” I can’t see an aesthetic influence. Photography is actually something I do as a way to escape thinking about work and my daily activities.

Orange Underpass
[singlepic id=278 w=600]Orange Underpass, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]

[singlepic id=280 w=600]Stairs, ©Martin Martinsson[/singlepic]


ƒ/D Associate Editor Libby Selinsky contributed to the content of this article.

David Cerbone – Cheat River

[singlepic id=248 w=200 float=right] [/singlepic]I first ran into David Cerbone and his work almost 8 years ago in the forums on f295 at a time when both of us were discovering the softly focused world of pinhole photography. Right from the start, there was a theme to his work. The guy was excellent at shooting these captivating scenes of rivers and gullies.

In the years since, he’s stayed true to that vision while refining the technique. He’s a rarity these days, staying focused largely on one area: the Cheat River, tributary to the Monongahela River Basin. Years of focus, exploration, and constantly looking for new ways of seeing has yielded a well rounded body of work that puts the viewer into the thick of this West Virginia landscape.

David has always been incredibly giving of his time in discussions in the past, and this interview is no exception. After the interview, be sure to have a gander at his Flickr photostream for more of his excellent work.


First, tell us a little about yourself. What was your journey to photography?
In real life, I am a professor of philosophy at West Virginia University.  I have lived and worked in West Virginia for over fifteen years now (my first semester teaching at WVU was in the Fall semester of 1998).  My main areas of interest in philosophy are oriented around the works of Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and more generally around the area known as phenomenology.  I’ve written three books, the most recent a short introduction to existentialism, which is out this month.

My first serious engagement with photography was in 8th grade, when I took an after-school class in beginning photography at my local high school.  There, I learned the basics of exposure and composition, as well as how to develop film and make enlargements.  We started out with little Diana-type plastic 120 cameras:  who knew they would become hipster gadgets decades later!  Throughout high school, I took photographs all the time – for the school newspaper, the school literary journal, for myself – and spent countless hours in the darkroom.  I was pretty obsessed.  I read the Ansel Adams trilogy, pored over issues of Modern Photography and Popular Photography, as well as Canon camera brochures (usually adding up how many thousands of dollars my dream outfit would cost), and thought semi-seriously about photography as a career.  Most of my college application essays centered on photography too.  But then I finished high school and started college.  I brought a camera to college, but never touched it.  I got sidetracked by academic studies, lost interest in photojournalism, felt like I already knew what photography classes could teach me (or was afraid to find out how much I needed to learn).  Whatever the reason, photography went fully dormant as an interest for more than a decade.  (It’s poignantly ironic in retrospect, given my interest now in antiquarian/alternative processes.  Had I been into that stuff at the time, I could have taken classes with Christopher James.  Instead, I had to buy his book on Amazon.)

What had been a teenage passion was only rekindled after my wife and I moved to Albright, in Preston County, West Virginia. The camera came out of storage, initially out of duty (my wife wanted me to get a picture of her in a parade at the Buckwheat Festival), and then stayed out. I began exploring my still new surroundings in Albright and started developing a series of obsessions.  For well over a year, I photographed a number of rusty nails that I found sticking out of old lumber, as well as the rust patterns on the corrugated metal roof of our barn.  I also now had a little bit of money, unlike when I was a teenager, and so I could buy a lot of the gear I had dreamed about as a kid (and as the digital revolution picked up steam, the film gear I wanted just got cheaper).  Having different kinds of equipment encouraged different ways of exploring.  Sometimes, I think I love the cameras themselves nearly as much as I love the end result.  While there is considerable merit in working expertly with a small array of equipment, in my own case, I find that using different cameras encourages me to think and see in new and different ways.

At some point, I turned my attention away from the rusty detritus around our house and started paying attention to the Cheat River, which runs right below us.  I think the real breakthrough was World Pinhole Photography Day back in 2007.  That’s when it first occurred to me to try photographing the half-destroyed railroad bridge not far from where we live (it’s about a five minute walk).  I was intrigued by my first results, but also, in addition to posting on the World Pinhole Day site, I stumbled onto  The best of the images I made that morning was the subject of my very first post on that site:
The community at f295 was really welcoming and I think that helped in moving me more in the direction of pinhole photography.

Railroad Bridge
[singlepic id=256 w=600]Railroad Bridge, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]

Bridge At Albright
[singlepic id=247 w=600]Bridge At Albright, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


I also have been in photography for a very long time, but also with some years-long breaks interspersed. How do you think these breaks from photography have helped your vision?
That’s a tough one to answer.  I think there is a special kind of intensity that comes from a rekindled or rediscovered passion that is different from the excitement of doing something completely new.  In the case of rediscovery, you’re tapping into something that has been lying dormant and there is both the feeling of its reawakening, along with the challenge to take it further.  I guess the biggest difference for me is that I come at photography now as a grown-up.  I am probably a bit more patient, a little more adept, and I am able more easily to follow through on ideas that I have.  I also now have an incredibly rich environment to explore through photography.  When I first started doing photography, we lived on Long Island and I had the shoreline of Long Island Sound to photograph (I still have a couple of pictures from that time up on my wall), but in between, I mostly lived in cities.  I appreciate urban photography, but it is not something I have ever felt an urge to try doing myself.

Albright Morning
[singlepic id=246 w=600]Albright Morning, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


As of this writing, your Flickr Photostream has 854 photos and, while I’ve not done an official count, it seems that as much as 90% of the photos are of river valleys in your immediate area. Where is this place that you’ve studied so much?
Pretty much all of the river-oriented photographs I’ve taken were made in the Cheat River watershed.  Most are of the Cheat River itself, but I’ve taken a bunch along Muddy Creek, which runs into the Cheat down below my house.  All of my regular go-to spots are in Preston County, West Virginia, between Albright and Rowlesburg.

There are all kinds of creeks and “runs” where I live and I really need to get out and explore more.  A friend of mine showed me a good spot by Deckers Creek, which runs between Preston County and Morgantown (which is in Monongalia County).  I got some really nice pictures there, but I have not managed to get back.

Muddy Creek
[singlepic id=255 w=600]Muddy Creek, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]

Exposed Roots
[singlepic id=252 w=600]Exposed Roots, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


There’s an obvious love of the landscape here. Is this where you grew up? What is the connection you have to this area?
I had never so much as set foot in West Virginia until I had a campus visit for my job at WVU.  I grew up in southern California until I was 11 and then my family moved to Long Island, New York, to the small town of Port Jefferson.  I went to college in New England and then graduate school in northern California, and prior to getting the job here, I was living in Chicago.  So rural West Virginia was pretty far off my radar screen.  Insofar as I thought about West Virginia at all, it was mostly via John Denver’s thoroughly inauthentic song (although that doesn’t stop it from being drunkenly sung in these parts).  I think I knew there was coalmining and I probably had some familiarity with the usual Deliverance-type stereotypes.

Even during my first year in West Virginia, when I lived in Morgantown, rural Preston County was something of a dark continent.  I think I drove once through Kingwood (the county seat) in my first ten months living in the state.  What changed things is that my soon-to-be-wife got a job at the hospital out here.  She’s a midwife and needed to be close by for taking call (no one calls a philosophy professor in the middle of the night).  So we looked for a house out here.  The funny thing is that on her way to the job interview, she drove by what is now our house and saw that it had a “For Sale” sign.  We never thought it would be in our price range, but real estate in rural West Virginia is nothing like California or New York.  So we bought it.  We got married on the front porch and all of our three children were born in our bedroom upstairs.  We have now lived here for more than fifteen years and it is HOME in a big way.  I say all this because my photography is in many ways an extension of this newfound sense of belonging.  Many of my photographs are taken where the Cheat runs below our house.  You can see the river from our house, especially when the leaves are down, and you can hear it when it’s running high.  I walk my two dogs every morning down by the river and I can see the old railroad bridge through the trees, just slightly upriver from my daily walk.  It is a place that I love and photographing what I see every day is one way of trying to express that love.  If I pack up some cameras and spend a couple of hours early in the morning down by the river, I’ve already had a good day.  If I get images worth printing or even just posting online, then I’ve won twice over.

I don’t just stay within walking distance when I shoot, but even when I pack the car with gear, I’m rarely driving more than around ten minutes, so it’s still close to home.  And since it’s still the Cheat River, it’s all connected anyway.

[singlepic id=249 w=600]Daybreak, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


You’ve photographed these valleys and hills in every season and condition. What’s been your favorite?
That’s hard to say.  Every time of year offers opportunities for good images.  I love morning fog and Fall foliage.  I’ve also had some success in the dead of winter, especially if we have had a nice snowfall.  This past winter, though, it was brutally cold and mostly really drab, so I didn’t get out much.  At the peak of summer, when it’s hot and hazy, I also tend to feel less inspired.  The one exception is infrared photography, which cuts through the haze and really does wonders with all the greenery.

Late Winter Rapids
[singlepic id=253 w=600]Late Winter Rapids, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]

River Rocks with Snow
[singlepic id=258 w=600]River Rocks with Snow, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


If you don’t mind me saying so, you seem to be an “old soul” of photography. Years ago, photographers and other artists would spend a lifetime studying one subject or geographic area. It’s a tradition that sometimes feels lost in today’s era of gun-and-run digital photography. Is working this way something you’re compelled to do? An itch you absolutely must scratch?
I’ve already talked about the love I feel for this place and that is one way in which I feel compelled to keep exploring my immediate environs.  I also tend to work in photography via fixation.  This can be in terms of a particular place, a particular subject matter, or a particular kind of image.  There were those rusty nails I mentioned, but the old railroad bridge has been another one of these ongoing obsessions.  Sometimes I will stumble upon something and then I will be occupied for weeks, months, or even years exploring whatever that is in different ways.  For example, for a long time when I would go upriver to a stretch of the Cheat known as the Narrows, I was mainly interested in scenic shots that took in wide expanses of the river.  But one time, for some reason or other, I tried some shots of just a couple of rocks where water was being forced through.  I really liked what I got and so now I will spend as much time looking at a two or three foot stretch of the river as I will the whole scene.

In general, I really like the way these familiar spots continue to offer new opportunities for making good photographs.  There’s a lot of repetition to my work habits.  Many rocks along the riverbed feel like old friends, since I end up setting my tripod at just that spot over and over again, even when I think I’m out for something different.  I will move about, looking out at the scene before me, and just be drawn again to the very same place and then I’ll think, “Oh yeah, there’s that slightly rectangular rock,” or “Here’s that one that’s just a little flatter than the others around it.”  But even when I set up in the same place, something different always results.  Every semester in my introductory philosophy class, I teach Heraclitus, one of the central figures in the pre-Socratic era of Western philosophy.  Heraclitus is most famous for the fragment declaring that one cannot step twice into the same river.  When I teach this fragment, I always explain it by describing my daily walks by the Cheat.  In some sense, it is the same river, day after day, year in, year out, but in a different sense, photography proves Heraclitus right:  one can never get the same photograph again, no matter how precisely one tries to recreate the conditions under which the first was taken.  From frame to frame, from roll to roll, from day to day, something changes:  the level of the river, the contours of the banks, the number of stones visible, the angle of the light, the movement of the water, the state of the surrounding foliage, even the color of the water itself.  One can return to the same place over and over again, but it will never look the same, never offer the same look, and in that sense, it will never be the same either.  Photography, which is usually understood as the ultimate attempt to capture and preserve a moment, to freeze and so keep it forever, also shows to us this transience.

River Roll 6
[singlepic id=259 w=600]River Roll 6, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


Since ƒ/D is focused on the art of pinhole photography, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: why is pinhole photography such a predominant medium for your work? Does it give you something other mediums lack?
I kind of stumbled onto pinhole to start.  I was flipping through a B&H Photo catalog a number of years back (when they still used to send out catalogs) and noticed the line of Santa Barbara 4×5 pinhole cameras they carry.  They looked sort of cool, and so I started poking around online to learn more about them.  I noticed that I liked a lot of the images people were making with pinhole cameras.  I also discovered that you could use these cameras with Polaroid film, which made them seem even more intriguing.  So I got one (or maybe a couple).  At first, I was kind of excited just to get an image.  There’s something about pinhole photography that invites both skepticism and wonder:  you look at the camera and it’s just a box with a tiny hole.  No shutter, no optics, definitely no LCD screen.  I found it hard to believe at first that anything could come of exposing film in something like that.  But sure enough, it works.  The images are not sharp like with cameras using optics, but they have their own charms.  I found that I didn’t mind the lack of sharpness compared to photographs made with optics.  Indeed, the slight softness of pinhole images gives them something of a painterly look, which I really like.  I also liked having so much less to worry over:  what lens to use, what f-stop and shutter speed, and so on.  Pinhole photography is very liberating in that way. Framing a pinhole photo is always a tentative, approximate affair, and the unlimited depth of field afforded by the pinhole frees me of worries about depth of focus while offering new ways of exploring near-far relations (I couldn’t have come close to the images I’ve made of rocks in the river, for example, using a standard camera with a lens).  The exposures are generally very long, and a bit of movement, the flow of water, a shifting cloud, even a gentle breeze can alter the image considerably.  A good pinhole photograph is always something of pleasant surprise, something I cannot take full credit for, as my control over the outcome is far more limited than with a standard camera:  the feeling I get in viewing a pinhole photograph I’m happy with is more one of good fortune bestowed than pride or accomplishment (perhaps this is why pinhole photographers are so low-ego, and generally so sharing with their tricks and techniques).  Though all of photography retains for me an element of magic (first felt when seeing an image emerge on what had been blank piece of paper), pinhole photography strikes me as especially magical, especially incredible:  it continually astonishes me that an image – a detailed rendering of a scene – can be achieved with little more than a tiny hole poked in a thin strip of metal.

Toward the Canyon
[singlepic id=260 w=600]Toward the Canyon, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]


I’ve backpacked a number of times in the hills of West Virginia, but never exactly in your area yet, when I first saw your photos, I knew exactly where they were. The land and rivers of WV permeates everything it touches, including the people and the things those people build and do. It’s one of the few areas that come to mind where taking photos of the landscape seems synonymous with taking photos of the people. Do you feel that your methodic exploration of the Cheat and its valley have brought you closer to the people you now live around?
Living in rural West Virginia, I will always be something of an outsider.  Many, if not most, of the people who live here have done so for generations upon generations and so they have a sense of place that I cannot begin to approach.  But I think getting out and exploring the area, creating images in response to what I see, has at least helped me appreciate that deep sense of place and maybe tap into it a little bit.  Making photographs of the Cheat River is my way of trying to express my admittedly newer-found attachment to where we live.  I have over the past several years started showing my work occasionally at a few galleries in Preston, Monongalia, and Tucker Counties.  I also peddle my photographs at some of the local festivals, most regularly at the annual Cheat River Festival here in Albright.  Doing these sorts of things has put me out there with my work among people.  I am not always comfortable doing this:  I don’t have the “gift of gab,” I’m not a natural salesman, and I often feel very self-conscious about my work.  I also don’t like the way appreciating and purchasing often get run together.  But on the whole, I think it has been good for me to display my work and talk about it with whomever happens to walk by and take an interest.  Once a young woman made a point of telling me that one of my photographs was hanging in her living room and it made her happy to see it there every day.  But I also just like getting a positive response from people, even if they do not buy anything.  The nicest thing ever told to me came from a very local guy, maybe around my age.  He didn’t buy any of my photos but he spent a long time looking at them.  Before he left he said something like, “You know, you’ve really captured the beauty of this place with these photographs.  Whenever I’m driving here (Route 72, which runs along the Narrows), I always tell my kids to look out their windows and see how beautiful it is where they live.  These photos really show that.” The locals at these events nearly always recognize the sites where my pictures were taken, but they are sometimes surprised at how these familiar places look (this is especially the case with the bridge here in Albright).  On these occasions, I like to think of my photographs as like that dad with his kids, pointing out to them, and so reminding them of, the beauty of this place.

Low River Fog
[singlepic id=254 w=600]Low River Fog, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]

Daybreak on the Narrows
[singlepic id=250 w=600]Daybreak on the Narrows, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]

Railroad Bridge with Fog
[singlepic id=257 w=600]Railroad Bridge with Fog, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]

Fallen Trees — Deckers Creek
[singlepic id=261 w=600]Fallen Trees — Deckers Creek, ©David Cerbone 2015[/singlepic]



ƒ/D Interview: Diane Peterson

Editor’s note: all images on this post are ©Diane Peterson

We here at f/D love bringing great photographs to your screens.  Our goal is to take you away from where you are at your place in time and deliver you to a place of inspiration and exploration.  One of our favorite ways of bringing you into our world is by speaking directly with the photographers who create the works that we present on our site.  We search carefully to find  people who truly love the work.  These people love to share their stories and views on photography.  After all, a photographer is also a story teller who uses the waves of light to replace their words.

This week’s featured artist was a pleasure to speak with.  Diane Peterson’s photographs are saturnine with an ethereal tone. Her images are striking yet soothing.  I hope you enjoy her perspectives as much as we do.  It is much to our pleasure to share with you our interview and her works.

[singlepic id=149 w=200 float=right] [/singlepic]Looking at your blog many of your photographs depict the anthropomorphization of characters and animals – see your post from July 2, 2014.  What interests you to create pinholes with these subjects?
In my “Perfect World” I would have numerous humans both adult and children ready to step in to my make believe world and take on the persona of whatever character I want to photograph. However, we live in a relatively isolated area without neighbors and I don’t really have people I can call on to fill in these rolls. About five years ago I realized I could build life size mannequins to use in these situations. I have a background in costume design and clothing construction so whatever I didn’t have in my personal wardrobe was easily created to dress these “people”. Making the mannequins in my size saved me a lot of time and work with outfitting them. I do however keep my eyes open for vintage garments. I started making my own dolls at the age of eight so this is just a natural progression..bigger dolls! I also made dolls with animal faces, masks just make this process a bit quicker and easier.  There are so many photographers out there shooting images of beautiful people and I have never liked the idea of doing the same thing as the next guy. Quirky seems to be my forte’. To me photography is about seeing the hidden picture, something that doesn’t seem obvious..sure, there is a beautiful dress but what is it about the creature wearing the dress, standing in a forest or by a falling down building. I have a very active imagination and these are the kinds of things I enjoy. Some would be totally oblivious to what is happening, so for those my work would probably be boring or strange. Although the mannequin idea came about several years ago it was only a couple years ago I got the idea to add a mask to these “girls”..I think the popular Portland based TV series “Grimm” had a lot to do with the mask idea.

[singlepic id=156 w=600]Rabbit 2, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=152 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]Many of your photos vary on whether you are using paper negatives or different types of film.  Do you have a preferred medium or do you like to try a little of everything?
When I first started doing photography I wanted to use film.. At about the same time I started seeing references to “pinhole” cameras and seeing incredible work being done by a few photographers, with some mention of “paper”, I had no idea what they were talking about. After a few searches on the internet I was excited to get started. However I was entirely ignorant to most of what happens with film and paper and how they become the finished product. I found the name of someone using paper in her pinhole images , took a chance and  wrote her  asking if she could give me pointers on how she used film paper. She responded by sending me a large roll of 4 inch wide stock..yards and yards of it! There are some incredible generous people in the photography world. I now use paper in about 95% of my pinholes. I also use paper in some medium format cameras such as Holga ,Diana and my Agfa Clack. I like to experiment and cutting small pieces of paper and positioning it with bits of scotch tape  lets me do this without wasting and entire roll of film.

[singlepic id=160 w=600]Valentine, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=158 w=200 float=right][/singlepic]Storm Warning, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]Your pinholes carry striking and sometimes startling emotion yet there are nearly no human faces in the photos on your blog.  Why do you choose to communicate without living faces?
Many people have said this exact thing to me! I think many of us derive emotion from things totally unexpected. I know I do. For instance, I take a lot of pinhole images of laundry hanging on clothes lines. For some reason this creates a sense of well being with me.  I have taken these kind of images in Ecuador, in Greece, Iceland, Great Britain, France, Italy..and all have a similar feeling for me. The patience of standing somewhere and hanging out the laundry..what could be simpler and yet many people comment how much they like these shots. So it does speak to many of us, probably drawing  back to a childhood memory. I have a favorite deserted, falling down farmhouse not far from my home that I love taking pictures of..mostly  pinhole, other times a normal camera. I never tire of it, and it always makes me feel welcome. How that can be when no one has lived there in probably seventy five years is amazing. This also comes from what I mentioned above, not having living faces, so I am somewhat compelled to find interesting places with lots of character that have the ability to elicit some emotion from the viewer. Probably a good thing my photos have this ability as I don’t really have a choice and I have become so use to this style that now it seems second nature to my work.

[singlepic id=145 w=600]Clothesline 4, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=159 w=200 float=right] [/singlepic]What is it about the pinhole camera that you love versus a glass lensed camera?
Where do I begin! From the first time I made a successful image using a pinhole camera I was hooked. I first read about pinhole cameras in maybe 2006 in an issue of the British publication “Black & White Photography”. There was an incredible spread of articles highlighting several people using pinholes at that time. I can honestly say that I still go back and read those pages several times a year. I wanted to know everything I could about pinholes, how to make my own cameras, what these people were shooting, tips on exposure, etc. I have always been the type of person that when they want to know a thing they pursue it to whatever length they need to, and this was no exception. Honestly, with all the incredible cameras out there today most anyone can make a beautiful image. I am not really about the “beautiful” perfect image, with me it’s about doing something “different, even unusual. My work definitely qualifies, and that OK with me. Not everyone will try pinhole. Most people are intimidated by it I think. And it could not be simpler. Everyone has their own methods of getting their desired exposure for instance. I use a handy little app called “pinhole assist”, and I can say that it never lets me down. You put in the information and it comes right back with your exposure. And, my gosh, you can make a pinhole camera from almost anything that can be made light tight. That cookie tin that might get thrown out can easily be turned into  the most perfect pinhole camera. How could someone not love that! I have many, many glass  lensed cameras but I use them rarely, always returning to one of my pinhole creations. I have several  beautifully made commercial pinhole cameras but using a left over cigar box, cookie tin, drink can really delights my sense of creativity. I also make my own pinholes with pieces of brass shim and micro drills I order from the east coast of the U.S. I get requests from all over the world from people needing the pinholes. The bottom line is take a tin can, wooden box, discarded container and make it light tight, add a pinhole and some photo paper and leave it out in the light for a bit and the result is a wonderful image. How could you not love this process!

[singlepic id=144 w=600]Ceramic, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=155 w=200 float=left][/singlepic]Do you process your own photos or do you send them out for processing?  Why?
I have processed my own work for years. When I was first starting out in photography, a friend at the time taught me to develop my own film during a long telephone conversation. Luckily my husband was listening because he remembers details better than I, so I could just ask him what step I was missing and he would know! That was a long time ago. Now I could do it in my sleep. And developing paper is the simplest thing in the world. I have our extra bathroom set up as a darkroom with the overhead light being  a safelight. We added a piece of black foam core over the window and instant darkroom. My biggest problem being to remember shutting off the safelight when I am finished! For paper you only need a paper developer , stop bath and fixer. I first started developing paper with Dektol and then tried caffenol. I now also use Rodinol which I really like. There is just something about putting your exposed paper negative into the developer and watching it transform into a tangible piece of art that delights the soul. And the most important reason for doing your own could you  possible wait to have someone else do it!

[singlepic id=148 w=600]3-2, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


The motion in the sheet music in your photo from Feb 19, 2015, conveys an energy in the music in a way I’ve not seen before. What was your process, creatively and technically, in creating this photo?
Ah, yes! Sometimes I find great props but then have to wait for just the right time to use them..I wanted to “hang” the sheet music in a way that I could capture several sheets at a time like when an orchestra has several musicians playing at once..without lots of music stands around I decided to run a piece of hemp across the back of a vintage truck bed and layer the music across. This called for a  wide angle pinhole camera with the proper focal length to capture the sheet music close enough so the viewer actually knows what it is. Mind you it also had to be a fairly overcast day, though not too dark so the exposure would be so long as to lose the movement… with just a bit of wind to get the swaying motion I wanted…long but not TOO long. .the old record player was thrown in just for fun, just in case someone missed the fact that this was about “Music”!

[singlepic id=157 w=600]Record Player, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=147 w=200 float=right] [/singlepic]Many of your cameras have a distorting effect to them. Can you tell us about how you introduce this distortion to help with your message?
As I mention before I use a lot of created or handmade pinhole cameras to make my images. When I first started out with pinhole I saw images made from circular tins as opposed to square flat “cameras”. This fascinated me. I was eager to try this style of making pinhole images. Just to think one merely had to change the pinhole image taking device positioning from horizontal to vertical or place at a forty-five degree angle to get an unusual picture was incredible in my mind. The curvature of the pinhole tin depending on its diameter can radically change your image.  I love distorting the image because it makes the viewer see things in a different way..Not necessarily “better” but just different. And “different” is good with me. I should add that I read just about everything I can find regarding pinhole imagery. Two of my favorite books are “Adventures with Pinhole and Home-made Cameras by John Evans, and Pinhole Photography, by Eric Renner. I would so recommend these books as a creative primer  to anyone starting out in Pinhole Photography.

[singlepic id=146 w=600]Otis, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=151 w=200 float=left] [/singlepic]We all have a voice that we use while we are expressing our creative selves.  Do you believe that you have found your voice?  
Most definitely! I mentioned that my background was in textiles and much of my work had been photographed for newspapers etc., but never really thought much about being the person behind the camera. While traveling in Europe with my daughter and granddaughter many years ago I started noticing the incredible images captured by my 10 year old (at the time) granddaughter! I started thinking that perhaps I should be doing this. I started looking at architecture and ruins in an entirely different way. I first tried digital imagery and was turned off by the “flatness” of the images and turned to film. But when I discovered pinhole I knew then I had found the answer to “what I want to be when I grow up” I feel amazingly fortunate to have found this “voice”.

[singlepic id=147 w=600]3, ©Diane Peterson 2015[/singlepic]


Paul Barden: Rural Pinholes

Note: all images in this article are ©Paul Barden

[singlepic id=68 w=250 float=right][/singlepic]I first came across Paul’s images while perusing the Flickr Pinhole Photography Group pool. As I scrolled through the page I came across this arresting self portrait, “Walking the Dead”, (right) of a bearded man that had this quality to it that just stopped me in my tracks. I think it’s because, for me, it represented a feeling you get when you’re walking a wilderness or rural area around dusk. Nothing is out of focus, but nothing is clear.

This image drew me to Paul’s work and, as I looked through his images, I found a certain familiarity with my own rural experience. Much of his attention is focused on the rural landscape near his farm – a place that his photos show he obviously knows extremely well. To photograph congested woodlands and mixed agrarian areas, you must have an eye for subtlety. These are not great sky scraping mountains that beckon adventurers from across the globe. No, these are the quiet places – the slow breath – that cannot be consumed in a weeklong vacation, but rather in seasons of wax and wane.

I caught up with Paul over email over the course of a couple weeks, and he was gracious enough to provide some great answers to my questions. Read on to learn about his path in photography, what drives his creativity, his self portraits, and more.

On your blog you mention that you’ve gone through different phases in photography, from film SLR’s to digital. What attracts you to pinhole photography today?
[singlepic id=63 w=250 float=left][/singlepic]My return to working with pinhole technology is just that; a return. In the 1980s I was working with home-made cameras quite a bit as an aspect of my study at the Ontario College of Art (now known as OCADU). However, at that time I didn’t have the luxury of time to devote more than a fraction of my study time to pinhole alone, so it was something I enjoyed a lot but couldn’t invest in heavily at that time.

In 2011 I found myself very dissatisfied with digital imaging technology because I found it was too sterile for my tastes; it lacked a sense of craft. Around 2000, I was enthusiastic to embrace the new sensor-based cameras and set aside my Nikon FM2 for good, and for over a decade my workflow was entirely electronic. But over the years my dissatisfaction grew as I increasingly felt the DSLR was too cold, too impersonal for my liking. There was none of the “alchemy” that traditional silver halide image making offered. I think it’s interesting to see digital photographers so enthusiastic about High Dynamic Range technology, when in fact, film has an incredible dynamic range that you can manipulate with ease. I’ve also come to find importance in the fact that film photography produces a physical object (the negative) whereas what digital image-making produces is ephemeral, and digital files face an uncertain future in a way that film negatives don’t. I’m not suggesting that my negatives are ever going to be of value to anyone but me, but I’m more comfortable with knowing that my negatives have a future that has a proven track record.

My response was to pick up the least advanced silver-based technology I knew, and that was the pinhole camera. Not only did it allow me a chance to revive my traditional skill set, but I felt compelled to experiment once more with hand made cameras of various designs – the wilder, the better!

[singlepic id=60 w=250 float=right][/singlepic]What has pinhole photography helped you to see that you don’t think you would have otherwise?
Pinhole work by its very nature demands that the photographer abandoned certain precepts, which can be very liberating. I am free to make choices at multiple points on the path of crafting a photograph that a digital camera does not permit. (“Farmhouse”, right)

Looking at your pinhole landscapes, one gets the sense that this is a land that is very very familiar to you. Where are you shooting typically? What is your connection to this place?
People who advocate working with film often state that they like working with traditional film technology because it prompts them to “slow down” and exercise greater care in crafting an image. In a similar way, I reject the notion that to create interesting landscape-based work you have to travel far and wide to find worthwhile subject matter. Of course, there are millions of amazing places on this planet to render on film, but I have chosen to restrict myself to a limited palette; most of what I photograph is within walking distance of my home, and in fact, much of my work is done here on the farm, nested in the creases of the Mary’s River. In the same way that film technology places different, less casual demands on a photographer, I find value in exploring my immediate environment – it pushes me to look more closely and carefully at the richness of this home of mine. I have recently found myself saying to people “If you can’t find anything to photograph within forty feet of where you’re standing right now, then you’re just not seeing what’s there.”

[singlepic id=67 w=650]Northeast Riverbed[/singlepic]


What is your workflow process? (e.g. all darkroom? do you scan and use a digital darkroom?)
I do have a darkroom I do my film-related work in, but I do not currently have an enlarger. I process all my film and paper myself, but once I have a negative of some sort, I move to a scanner (an Epson V-750) and from there I process my imagery in Lightroom. I won’t go into detail about my post- processing technique since I’ve discovered in recent times that there are sometimes harsh feelings coming from some of the strictly non-digital practitioners.

I understand the reasoning (and strong emotions) behind the uncompromising “silver only” premise, but I do not care to impose those restrictions on my own creative endeavors. I worked for fifteen years as a professional darkroom technician and spend thousands of hours making prints the traditional way. I decided long ago that I had been exposed to enough print making chemistry for one lifetime and so I embrace the opportunity to make prints in a new way – with inks and dyes on photo rag paper. With all my darkroom experience, I know exactly how I want my prints to look and it’s very easy for me to accomplish my goals with other (non-silver) materials. I see no need to discount new technologies when – for many photographers – they offer an expansion of their creative vocabulary. I think an overly militant “silver only” mindset can be stifling to the creative process, but I do not begrudge the practitioners of this wonderful technology the option of setting limits that are meaningful to their workflow.

[singlepic id=69 w=650]Westview Swale[/singlepic]


Who were your biggest influences in your photographic style?
This is going to seem like an incongruous mix of influences, but…. Minor White. Larry Clarke. Edward Weston. Arno Maggs. Deborah Samuel. Share Corsaut. Miroslav Tichý, Joseph Bryson, Cindy Sherman, April Hickox and numerous friends and acquaintances. I’ve found that many times I’m deeply struck by lone images I encounter, made by people I never encountered before and whose work may be of the most casual sort. Sometimes the simplest candid snapshot reveals more to me than the most carefully planned image might. However, I have recently discovered Gregory Crewdson and find his work very compelling too.

[singlepic id=58 w=650]Access Road[/singlepic]


What is the image that you’re most proud of, that you keep coming back to?
I find that difficult to answer, honestly. My emotional response to individual pieces changes from day to day – month to month. I see my work through the lens of shifting goals and unsettled process. I used to think that it was important to arrive at a clearly defined goal before you set out to start a body of work, but for me, that imposes limitations that I’m not comfortable with. I think it’s more valuable to explore possibilities unencumbered by “goal” and “intent” and discover the connections between certain pieces through editing and selecting a body of work. Sometimes you can’t see what you’ve been doing until you’ve completed it.

However, recent pieces I’ve done with extended sensitivity films (infrared emulsions) have become very meaningful to me, partly because there is a nostalgic component to working in this style – I shot 35mm Kodak HIE a lot back in the 1980s and enjoyed it immensely for its altered tonality and spooky feel.

[singlepic id=66 w=650]North Riverbed[/singlepic]


I’m finding recent panoramic landscapes done on Rollei Infrared 120 roll film very appealing, with their gently skewed horizons and peculiar tonality. Last fall I did a piece I titled “Glowtree”, which has a strong graphic quality that appeals to me.

[singlepic id=62 w=650]Glowtree[/singlepic]


How do you best deal with creative impediments, such as feeling “blocked” or uninspired to shoot?
I think inspiration comes from doing – its not something that leaps out of your subconscious to set your imagination alight, its something you conjure by taking action. The act of picking up a camera and starting the process often leads to discovery, and discovery – for me – fuels inspiration. Photography is a discovery-based craft, I think.

The photo that brought my attention to your work was, “Walking the Dead”, which appears to be a handheld self portrait. Further, it appears that you’ve done several of these handheld self portraits. I find “Clipper Paul” to be a particularly excellent insight into your context with the landscape you photograph. Can you talk about what led you to try these handheld self portraits and how your experimentation with them has evolved?
[singlepic id=65 w=250 float=right][/singlepic]This started with a series of tests done with a recently acquired camera, the Nopo 6×6 pinhole camera, made in Spain from Walnut, Cherry and other woods. The first test roll produced this image was “Mask of Leaves” (Right)

And from there, I went on to produce the second one of similar intent; “Walking The Dead” (top of article, right), which you referred to. I’ve since decided that this camera is going to be dedicated to pursuing more portraits in this style, but turning more towards creating characters to investigate my state of mind from day to day. (I am thinking this is going to take the form of Totem Animals from the dark brambles of my subconscious! This is where Cindy Sherman is likely to speak to me) I’m thinking of this camera not so much as a camera in the standard sense, but more as a kind of one-eyed diagnostic tool – like a light sensitive divining rod.

It can be very liberating to stop thinking of your tools as defined by their names and titles, and let them take on different roles. I think many pinhole photographers do this to some extent. I mean, its exciting to transform an old cookie tin into a camera that you can use to produce viable, exciting imagery.[singlepic id=70 w=250 float=right][/singlepic]I’m quite pleased with my Big Cookie Tin pinhole image I produced for World Pinhole Day this year (April 26, 2015) (right). I originally made this camera for making Solargraphs. (I did make one four-month exposure during the winter) For WPD I loaded it with an 8X10 sheet of Ilford Delta 100, which was the first time I’ve worked with film that size! (Expensive stuff, at $4.50 a sheet) I had to sit for 29 minutes to get that exposure, and I am very pleased to find that Delta has excellent latitude, which helped compensate for the fact that the film plane varied in distance from the pinhole. I’m excited to use the old Cookie Tin 8X10 with Ilford’s Delta 100 again soon.

I should mention that a significant part of the enjoyment for me is making the camera. I have some excellent cameras made by skilled people (my Clipper 3D printed camera, and my 6X17 Vermeer by Cezary Bartczak are both excellent cameras), and I’m very pleased to work with my home-printed copy of Todd Schlemmer’s Pinh5ad 4×5 camera but my Zero Image cameras get used less and less often, because in a way they are less personal and certainly less quirky than some of my other cameras. For me, the Zero Image was a great starter pinhole camera when I bought it in 2012, but I soon felt the desire to make odd cameras to my own specifications. (I think Miroslav Tichý was guiding my hands at that point!)

The Zero Image cameras (and the Nopo and the Ondu, etc.) are excellent devices, and the fact that there are so many clever designers making them in recent years is very encouraging and suggests that film photography has entered a kind of renaissance period. It seems that it was inevitable that it would reach this point. If you look at the history of photographic techniques and materials, its been a cycle of new technology replacing older materials, and eventually the obscure, older technology is discovered by a new generation of artists and it explodes into a wave of renewed enthusiasm. I see plenty of young photographers who were “born digital” discovering silver-based photography and they are experiencing it not as I am – as someone returning to familiar territory – but as newborns discovering a strange and magic realm for the first time, and for them, its pure alchemical magic. Thats a very exciting shift to see happening. It makes me very hopeful that film technology will be around for a long, long time.

[singlepic id=59 w=650]Clipper Paul [/singlepic]


You have two images, “Fireflies” and “Judy Goes Walking”, for which your experimentation takes a a slightly different direction. Can you talk about your process for these images?
[singlepic id=61 w=450 float=right][/singlepic]The “Fireflies” (right) panorama is a proof of concept piece that predates the piece titled “Judy Walking” (below). “Fireflies” was shot using my Clipper 6X17 panoramic curved-plane camera designed and 3D-printed by Clint O’Connor ( Exposing for about 15 minutes at dusk, I experimented with a Vivitar flash unit, aiming it at the camera from about 15 feet and firing it manually, then moving my position and repeating the process. The idea was to determine to what degree the flash would make a usable exposure, and what kind of mark it would leave.

From there, I moved to my Zero Image 4X5 pinhole camera to expand on the idea. In making “Judy Walking”, I first exposed the riverbed scene at dusk for about ten minutes using the pinhole “lens”, then closed the dark slide on the film holder, removed the film holder, switched the “lens” to the Zone Plate, replaced the film holder and made a new exposure after dark.[singlepic id=64 w=400 float=right][/singlepic] The “figures” in the image are an empty translucent dish detergent bottle illuminated by multiple firings of the flash unit. The Zone Plate lends the glowing quality to the image.

Thematically, “Judy Walking” is a re-envisioning of a photo I made in the mid-1980s in art college. It is talking about how we anthropomorphize manufactured objects – specifically addressing my memories of a dressmakers form – called a “Judy” – my Mother used for her clothing alteration jobs when I was a child. This piece also reflects my appreciation for the locomotion studies of Edward Muybridge and superficially, it echoes the aesthetic quality of some of his wonderful work.


Many thanks to Paul for subjecting himself to the ƒ/D interview process! Got more questions for him? Feel free to put them in the comments below. If you’d like to stay tuned to Paul’s ongoing work, he can be found on Twitter, Flickr and his personal blog.


Scott Speck: the ƒ/D Interview

While I’ve been photographing for over 20 years now, I’ve only been using pinhole cameras for the last 7 or 8 years. I still remember the images that inspired me to pick up the pinhole camera and give it a try – many of those images were produced by Scott Speck.

Naturally, when I started this blog and started considering the idea of interviewing other photographers, the first photographer that came to mind was Scott. If you’ve been paying attention to pinhole photography for much time at all, you’ve likely seen his work before.

Scott Speck has been making pinhole photographs since 2006, but his photographic experience goes back further than that. He has a reputation for using angles and perspective in conjunction with precise lighting to produce dramatic images of spaces and people.

I caught up with Scott over email and got the chance to ask him about where his vision has been and where it’s going.

You’ve been focused on pinhole photography since 2006, but looking at your earliest flickr photos there’s a fair amount of lens work in there too. What led to your transition to pinhole as your primary medium?
I bought a Zero Image 2000 6x6cm pinhole camera, and my wife and I experimented with it at an old, abandoned industrial site. The pinhole’s limitless depth of field, revealed on the black/white negatives, instantly captivated me. Further experimentation, including with the Zero Image 4×5 camera, with its ultrawide field of view, completely sold me on pinhole photography. [The Zero Image 4×5] became my camera of choice, especially considering the choice of three focal lengths, as well as both pinhole and zone plate options, with a single camera.

[singlepic id=34]The Archives, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


Many of your most iconic images tend to apply pinhole’s unique ability to stretch a perspective to massive buildings and spaces such as cathedrals. Did you go looking for a medium that could fulfill your vision with these structures? Or was it a vision that you realized once you understood pinhole?
That’s a very good question… The answer is — I discovered my love of ultrawide photography through the Zero Image 4×5 camera. Since that time, I’ve used other ultrawide pinhole cameras, as well as an ultrawide lens on my dslr (which is not nearly as wide as the Zero 4×5).

[singlepic id=33]St. Nicholas Cathedral, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


You’ve shown your work at exhibitions. How do your viewers tend to react when they understand that the image they’re looking at was made with a tiny tiny hole?
People are always amazed at what can be done with a such a simple camera! However, nowadays I try to let my photos “stand on their own”, since I don’t want my photos to be appreciated “just because they’re pinhole”. I want to create dramatic and meaningful photographs, with the pinhole medium merely being my means of achieving that goal. At the same time, I describe pinhole cameras and techniques to people, as a way to show them why I work in this medium, and of its unique capability and simplicity of use.

[singlepic id=32]Sky Light, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


I’ve often found that when out shooting with a pinhole camera, I get a lot of questions and interactions from passersby. I doubt this experience is unique to me. Any noteworthy anecdotes? 
A lot of people are curious, many of whom recognize that I’m shooting with a pinhole camera. I meet many people who have done large format film photography and share some of their own experiences with me. One unique experience was when I was shooting in Madrid, Spain, and a fellow came up to me and instantly fell in love with the Zero 2000 camera. He said he had just gone through a terrible divorce, and he was going to buy a Zero 2000 to create something and renew his enjoyment of life.

[singlepic id=35]The Mad Scientist…, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


Your day job is as a modeling and simulation engineer at Johns Hopkins, and you’ve contributed to the Hubble and Webb space telescopes. One would guess that this experience helps shape the precision by which you shoot. How would you characterize the way your career has influenced your photography?
I think the precision and “math” that I use in doing my photography is enhanced by my scientific work. However, my love of beautiful imagery goes much farther back, to when I was very young and, using binoculars and telescopes, loved to view nature, as well as a massive steel/iron works just across the river from my house. I would sit for hours and immerse myself in scenes of brilliant gold finches roosting in a blossoming cherry tree, or of streams of molten iron being cast from inside a row of massive blast furnaces. I immediately felt the power of viewing and “capturing” images. I feel that I do well at my professional career, in part, because of my photography, and vice versa.

[singlepic id=29]B-47 Stratojet Engine, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


Another aspect of your photography is the amount of portraiture you do. What challenges do you face in pinhole portraiture?
Pinhole portraiture is a challenge because of my desire to create a clear image of my subject, particular with indoor lighting. One problem this presents is the use of distractingly bright lighting, as well as the restrictions on subject position and facial expression.

[singlepic id=30]Dan the Man, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


What do you find to be the most exciting direction in pinhole photography today?
The sheer number of techniques and camera types blow me away. The imagination of people enables new ways of recording images through the pinhole, including blending cameras, anamorphic cameras, and many others. I think it’s that huge diversity of techniques, all of which result in stunning imagery, that excites me the most.

[singlepic id=28]At the Helm, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


What do you find yourself exploring most with your camera these days?
These days, I feel myself drawn to smaller scenes, and to intimate details and fields of view that impart a strong sense of atmosphere and mood. Examples would be wet autumn leaves in a puddle during a heavy rain, or the colorful gravel and sand on a beach rendered with stunning clarity, while the clouds and horizon are also in focus. I think I’m coming back more to where I started with the pinhole — a sense of tactile realness — a different way to view the world.

[singlepic id=31]Forest On a Rainy Day, ©Scott Speck 2015[/singlepic]


Many thanks to Scott for providing well rounded answers to our probing questions! You can learn more about Scott at his website and see more of his images on his Flickr page. I’d also recommend checking out his contributions to The Next Best Thing Pinhole Project.