Tag Archives: self portrait

Inspiration Week of 5/16

This week ƒ/D brings some more photos that I’ve been very excited to see. If there’s a common theme to these, I’d say that they’re all moments in transition. Vignettes of a story – a day at the pool; traveling cross country; the vanishing sun at the beach; the setting of another day in the backyard; or a deep, full breath in the expanse of nature. When you’re done enjoying these, I’d invite you to take a gander at the inspiration we’ve shared in the past.


Nerja, Avril 2016
[singlepic id=337 w=600]Nerja, Avril 2016, ©Nicolas Dollman 2016[/singlepic]

Nicolas Dollman took up pinhole photography to free himself of the technical minutia of other forms of photography, so that he could simply focus on the exposure. Furthermore, Nicolas describes the idea of photographing moment – telling a story – in time as opposed to a single instant as “poetic”. The practice introduces a bit of meditation and mindfulness to his photography, keeping him in the moment. Indeed – I love this photo because of the hint of a moment in the two figures at the end of the pool. He made this image with a Zero Image 6×9 with a red filter and TMAX 100. To enjoy more of Nicolas’s excellent work, head over to his Flickr page.


Self Portrait
[singlepic id=338 w=600]Self Portrait, ©Craig A Coss 2016[/singlepic]

Craig Coss made this image with a Holgamods Da Vinci Mini Pinhole with a Polaroid back loaded with Fuji FP-100c. If you can’t tell, he’s on a train. Self portraits with the pinhole can be amazingly powerful. The trick is to work the angles and wide angle to your advantage – a standard self portrait setup will not do in pinhole. Craig really nailed it with this one! You can find more of his dynamic work at his Flickr page.


Dusk Pano
[singlepic id=336 w=600]Dusk Pano, ©Ingrid Budge 2016[/singlepic]

I’m extremely jealous of Ingrid Budge’s eye. Last time we featured one of her photos, I stared at thing photo for at least an hour. She made this pano image on the west coast last year, although she doesn’t recall where. She used her trusty Sharan camera and “cheapo film”. Ha! Remember that next time you sweat the small stuff! You can find more of her inspiring work on her Flickr Page.


Walnut Tree
[singlepic id=339 w=600]Walnut Tree, ©Darren Constantino 2016[/singlepic]

Darren Constantino made this moody capture of a walnut tree in the back yard in April for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. This is another example of the great results you get on pinhole when shooting into the sun. You can find more great pinholes from Darren on his Flickr page.


Bear Creek Lake Park
[singlepic id=335 w=600]Bear Creek Lake Park, ©Paul Bender 2016[/singlepic]

Paul Bender produced this deceivingly minimalist scene with his Zero Image 612D on a cold, rainy day in Colorado’s Bear Creek Lake Park. Paul’s story is one that we hear often: he spent time in digital, but it was pinhole that reignited his love of film and brought his photography “full circle”. The simplicity – the zen – of pinhole is a refreshing wellspring we can all appreciate. Paul has some more great pinhole photos on his Flickr account, and we encourage you to check them out.



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.


Studies in Motion – Jean-Christophe Denis

One of my favorite features of the pinhole camera is its blurring of time. In other photographic pursuits it is not unusual to see motion blur used creatively. However in pinhole, it’s nearly a constant aspect of the resulting image, which results in us having to always consider the passage of time as an unspoken subject of the images.

Jean-Christophe Denis is a French artist from Strasbourg who wields his pinhole camera to bring us some unique representations of motion and time. He describes himself as “keen on alternative photographic techniques. [His] world carries us off into dreamlike images, or staggered delicate portraits. By constantly pushing [his] practice of photography into a corner, [he] reveals [his] vision of the visible.”

The following images are a sampling of a couple avenues of approach that Jean-Christophe (or JC) has explored. First are some of the “staggered delicate portraits” which show the beauty of human movement in stutter-step detail. The second are from a stunningly energetic series of self-portraits while riding his bike.

He provides the following intro to the “Ride My Bike” self-portraits:

“For someone hidden behind a camera it is not easy to find yourself on the other side, the first self-portrait of a photographer is full of meaning, Hippolyte Bayard, the pioneer of photography represents suicide in his first staged photograph.

While integrating egocentric codes of contemporary society, like the  selfie and Gopro phenomenon, I nevertheless take the opposite view of technology with the aim of building an image to fit into my time, my way.”

I hope you enjoy the following selection from JC as much as I have! To discover more of JC Denis’s excellent work, head over to Flickr or check out his personal website – he has more great pinholes and other photographic works.

Haré Pola
[singlepic id=263 w=600]Haré Pola, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=270 w=600]Untitled, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


[singlepic id=271 w=600]Untitled, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


Ride My Bike
[singlepic id=269 w=600]Ride My Bike, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


Ride My Bike Front Back
[singlepic id=268 w=600]Ride My Bike Front Back, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]

Ride My Bike 3
[singlepic id=264 w=600]Ride My Bike 3, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


Ride My Bike 4
[singlepic id=265 w=600]Ride My Bike 4, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


Ride My Bike 5
[singlepic id=266 w=600]Ride My Bike 5, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


3 Beers Later
[singlepic id=262 w=600]3 Beers Later, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


Ride My Bike Color
[singlepic id=267 w=600]Ride My Bike Color, ©Jean-Christophe Denis[/singlepic]


Get Inspired – WWPD

Today’s featured pinhole photo is a ghostly self portrait.

[singlepic id=163 w=600]WWPD, Eight Banners, Portra 160, ©Paul Griffin[/singlepic]

Paul Griffin made this image in the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool using his Eight Banners 6×9 loaded with Kodak Portra 160. As indicated by the title, he made this for WWPD. He made this image using what he refers to as “Photoshop in camera”: overlapping the 6×9 exposures as he moves through the 120 roll. This gives him a slight bit of unpredictability while also providing a fair bit of creative choice in which images to use.

You can find more of Paul’s work on his Flickr page.


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 (pinholeprinted.com). 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.