My interest in pinhole photography first began many years ago (circa 2004) when I acquired a beautiful ZeroImage 2000 pinhole camera, which shoots 120 roll film. After a year or two of use with decidedly mixed results it took its place on the shelf for a hiatus with focus switching to digital cameras. Inspired by the work of Scott Speck, in 2012, it started to emerge from hibernation being used with increasing regularity. Combined with the adoption of Caffenol-C-H-UK as a developer for home processing, the quality of results improved notably. This resulted in exhibited pinhole work at the London Analogue Festival 2014 and the London Pinhole Festival 2016.

The 2016 pinhole festival was a key event in fermenting the idea for this project. Not only were the images themselves incredibly diverse in style and subject, but “cameras” used to produce them had radically different designs. My own image was produced with my ZeroImage 2000. Nigel Breadman folded photographic paper into an origami cube, wrapping it in foil and piercing a pinhole on location. The cube even had the possibility to serve as a container for the developing agents. Yaz Norris used room sized camera obscuras to expose 5×4 film over many hours. Sheila McKinney used beer cans to expose 4×5 paper negatives of Doomed Gallery. Nick Middleton exposed images onto vintage photographic glass plates. Michalina Hendrys‘ incredible “AutoPortrait” used a custom 8x10in camera whose front held interchangeable plates each containing 100’s of pinhole apertures. Meanwhile Anthony Carr ran a workshop teaching the process of creating a zoomable pinhole camera made from a pair of nested boxes. Results of searches for pinhole camera designs on major internet search engines bring up many designs, but most are repeats of the same simple cardboard box with a piece of tin can pierced for a pinhole. The artists participating in the pinhole festival showed that far from being fully explored & uniform, the field of pinhole camera design has enormous potential for ongoing exploration and discovery in any number of radically different directions.

My involvement in the field of open source software development has demonstrated the immense benefits of freely sharing, not only the final product, but also its source code (software’s “architectural blueprints”). It empowers engineers to build on each others’ contributions to reach places not possible when working in isolation or wasting time re-inventing the wheel in competition with each other. It empowers consumers to break free of the shackles of companies whose motive, all too often, is merely extracting as much money from users as the market will bear, often by stifling competition with a combination of lawsuits and extreme secrecy. Thinking about the parallels in the creative world, exhibiting artists typically only exhibit the finished photographic works, providing a mere handful of words in a caption to describe the process or equipment used in their production. The work can be magnificent and inspiring but artists wishing to further explore and learn from the ideas & concepts on display are left to guess as to the process or techniques. This can be understandable to some extent, as artists may wish to avoid others plagiarizing their work, but equally it can be counterproductive by slowing the pace of exploration compared to that achieved when collaborating. The pinhole festival was unusual in that there was a strong element of sharing of information about the techniques and tools used to produce the works, particularly with Michalina Hendrys’ exhibiting her custom built camera and book of pinhole plates. Pinhole photography artist Sheila McKinney is known for often taking photographs of her pinhole camera on location, thus showing not only the equipment used but how the camera was placed to compose the scene. This provides useful information for those learning the craft of pinhole photography composition, which can be very challenging in the early days due to lack of any real viewfinder.

Bringing all these ideas together, the project germinated around the idea of creating a “Pinhole Miscellany” – aka a curated collection of pinhole camera designs. At its core the project will be about the creation of pinhole cameras taking on as many different physical forms as can be invented, limited only by imagination (and unfortunately obvious real world concerns such as money and family life practicalities). During each camera’s genesis, notes will be taken on the design and construction process of the camera. Once complete, it will be used to shoot images of some arbitrarily chosen subjects/scenes easily at hand. For each camera produced, a gallery will be presented, comprising both images of the camera in use on location and the final captured images themselves. Accompanying each work will also be a written and illustrated guide to the construction of the camera in question and where applicable, any unusual camera specific details about the post-capture processing techniques applied, whether digital or analogue.