Pinholes

A couple of years ago, before I managed to get my own darkroom set up, and in an attempt to broaden my knowledge of processing and printing skills, I attended an evening class in Alternative Processes at Bath College. Along with half a dozen or so others, I was introduced to Anthotypes, Cyanotypes, liquid emulsions and a few other interesting experiments. One of these projects was to make our own ‘matchbox’ pinhole camera. Conveniently, a 35mm film will fit nicely into a standard size matchbox (instructions can be found here). As a degree-qualified jewellery designer and maker (and an unqualified tinkerer) I needed no second bidding, and made myself one. I think I was a bit keener than everyone else (or a bit sadder), and by the following week’s session I already had a roll of film that I had run through my new toy. The results of development did not seem too promising, but with a bit of fiddling (and nearly burning a few sheets of resin coated paper due to huge exposure times) I managed to get a print…

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This is taken from the Town Bridge in Bradford on Avon. It’s blurry, poorly exposed, got my fingers on the extreme right of the frame and altogether a bit rubbish. But I love it. Not only because of its authenticity or because it was taken with a camera that I had made myself for essentially nothing, but also because of the reaction it got from my peers. After dragging this print out of the drier, I took it into to light to see how crap it really was. One of my fellow students glanced at it and said, ‘Ooh, is that a pinhole?’

Within a few seconds, nearly everyone was gathered around me cooing and ooing as if I was cradling a new species of baby bird. It wasn’t the attention I was enjoying (it’s not me, it’s the camera and all that), but the irony. Spend a couple of grand on a digital camera with a billion pixels and it takes a huge amount of effort to get anyone to bat an eyelid at what you produce; buy a matchbox and instantly you’re a genius…! Here’s a couple more I took in one of my favourite locations with another matchbox pinhole I made; the one on the left is sepia toned. I’d like to spend some time doing more.

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