I took my first pinhole less than six months ago. Claude Smith (Expressive Arts Department Chair at WNMU) showed me examples of his photography efforts, many of which included processes I had never been exposed to. Even in the midst of huge negatives saturated with bright color and large prints capturing unearthly qualities via printing processes I couldn’t pronounce, the pinhole opened my eyes. Claude also informed me that his first darkroom “whoohooo” came by way of the pinhole. I had never had a darkroom “whoohooo” before; was I doing something wrong, doing without authentic passion?
I grabbed one of the pinhole cameras Claude’s students made. It was a black cardboard box with a tiny hole in the middle of one of the sides. There were others on the shelf made of oatmeal boxes and coffee cans. The black box had more of a formal quality about it. After all, I’m a photographer, I must be serious...oatmeal boxes just aren’t the camera of the serious photographer. As it turned out, I sure was wrong...about quite a bit.
Aside from experiencing my own “whoohooo” in the darkroom by way of the pinhole camera, I began to really think about what I’m actually seeing when I look at the world through my eyes. It blew my mind that light sensitive paper, normally requiring an image to be cast onto it, could create a recognizable print, without the technology I heavily relied upon. The brilliance of light sensitive paper is that it reacts to light intensities. I was familiar with thinking about the negative controlling the intensity of the light, not the reflective properties of the objects in the world. As it turned out, the pinhole introduced me intellectually to the fundamentals of photography.
The pinhole photograph works because our world is laden with objects having reflective properties; a white building reflects more light than the black tire of a car. Similar to the function of a camera’s shutter, I could control the amount of light hitting the paper by how long I’d leave a piece of tape off of the pinhole. This, of course, reinforced my idea that photography is truly an art / science dealing with the elements of light and time.
The pinholes in this section were created by students, most of whom were taking Photo I. These images have not been touched up. The variability in outcome is unique to the pinhole process. Some of these pinhole cameras were boxes (the paper was flat), while others were cylinders (the paper was curved). Many pinhole enthusiasts take their image, which is a negative image, to a Photoshop program and transform it into its positive form, so it resembles traditional ideas of what a photograph should look like.
These pinholes are in their original state, no doctoring or manipulation. Often the wandering photographer through the hallways of the Chino Building was handed a pinhole box. My apologies for the anonymity of these pinholes. They were pinned onto the wall outside of the wet-lab. What’s represented here is a small sample of what was on that wall.
By: Tyler Bingham