Monday, June 06, 2016

Published 10:19 AM by with 2 comments

Pictures in Motion - Pinhole Photography



A photograph typically represents a single moment in time. Exposures are measured in fractions of a second and can freeze in place a fleeting smile or a speeding car.
When I moved from making films to making photographs, my mental process also shifted. In many ways I found it more of a challenge to capture what I was seeing. With video, I could move the camera around inside the three dimensional scene. It was easy for the viewer to get a feeling of scale and depth. Sound helped convey the environment and a sense of being there. Scenes played out in real time, just like the seconds and minutes in our daily lives.
Not so with a photograph. I had to condense all of that sensory experience into a single silent moment. For the most part, however, I didn't miss video except for one thing: the ability to record the passing of time.
I've always been fascinated by long exposure photographs. They live in their own world, free from the shackles of split-second shutter speeds. They are like time machines, allowing us to study the cumulative rhythms of waves or the morphing of clouds. They can create a three-dimensional silence like no other medium.
It was through my own dabbling with long exposure methods that I became interested in pinhole photography. The left side of my brain was most curious about capturing an image without a lens. The right side was seduced by the emotion, mood and atmosphere felt in pinhole photography.
I've never been completely satisfied shooting images of beautiful scenery. I don't feel like these kinds of photographs belong to me because they lack any kind of expression or personality. They are also predictable; I see a tree, I capture a tree. I see beautiful light and, assuming I have the skills necessary, it's captured faithfully.
Pinhole photography unleashes my creative side. It's a unique collaboration between human and machine. The ethereal atmosphere and the long exposures excite my mind into imagining new worlds. I think about what I can do inside five seconds or maybe thirty seconds and produce surreal images that I could never have conjured up by myself. It's like a genre unto itself; somewhere between photography and video.
The results of my recent efforts have been haunting, at least to me. The movement in each picture puts them in a completely different realm than my lovely generic landscape photography. These are uniquely mine and I won't find anything like them elsewhere.


I'll continue to capture the beauty I see around me in a conventional way, of course, but pinhole photography will stay a little closer to my heart as I continue on down the road.




My Adobe Spark (formerly Slate) presentation of this post is available here

If you would like to keep up with my travels, sign up to be notified of new posts. Peace.
      edit

2 comments:

Bob said...

HiSteven,

Just stumbled upon you while researching pinhole photography. I just ordered a pinhole cap for my Fuji X-T10 to see if I can more closely emulate the emotional visualization I experience into a black and white image. I 'feel' the image differently than how I have been able to record them and from what I know, and certainly what I see on your site, it seems pinhole photography might be better representation of my feeling of the image.
I have two questions, the first is whether you just punched holes in a lens cap until you got what you wanted. The other question regards some of your images that have a surreal wavyiness to the static elements. Is this post-processing or is a technique that you can share?
Those images are very reminiscent of the New Orleans oil painter Michalopoulos whose work I find compelling.

Thanks Steven. Looking forward to hearing from you and I enjoy your site very much.

Steven Dempsey said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your comments. I'm glad my work moves you in the ways you have described.

Regarding the pinhole I use, the best link I've seen describing the process of making it is here; http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pinhole-Lens-for-Your-SLR-Camera

The trick is to make sure the hole is completely round and, when using a sewing needle, just barely pierce the aluminum. Anything bigger will cause the image to be fuzzy.

The distortion you are referring to was achieved in post. I try to mimic the qualities of anamorphic pinholes I see in the analog medium so no trick in-camera there.

Good luck in your journey and let me know if I can assist you.