|Fostoria, OH, WPPD 2016.|
Tomorrow, April 26, is the last Sunday in April, also known as Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD). There seem to be a lot of photo events on the calendar -- 'Roid Week, Toy Camera Day, Argust Day, World Photography Day, etc. However, WPPD is a lot more organized, as it has a web site devoted to the day. I have participated off and on over the years, and this year, I definitely will be making some pinhole photos. Unfortunately, the pinhole community lost Eric Renner, who died on April 9. You may not know his name, but his book - "Pinhole Photography - Rediscovering a Historic Technique" (Focal Press) is an amazing book, and great resource for anyone wanting to know more about pinhole and zone plate photography. He started pioneering work with pinhole cameras in the 1970s, and from the Freestyle Photo page -
"Mr. Eric Renner is the founder and co-director of Pinhole Resource, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing information about pinhole photography. He is also founder and co-editor of Pinhole Journal, published three times a year, and gives educational lectures and workshops internationally. Renner has worked in pinhole photography for 32 years. Some of his recent work in assemblages are made in collaboration with his wife Nancy Spencer. His photographs are exhibited in major collections throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the California Museum of Photography, the National Gallery of Canada, and Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris, France. Renner is the author of "Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering a Historic Technique"
That short summary only tells a part of the story. Mr. Renner's work is in many museums and collections, and his pioneering work with pinhole photography wasn't just about the mechanics and technique, it was also because he could tell a story with his photographs. I know that the first time anyone uses a pinhole camera, that person is truly amazed to get an image from something so primitive and non-technological as an oatmeal box with a tiny hole. To take it to the next level - actually making an interesting photo and not that the photo is interesting because it was taken using a pinhole is a great achievement. To be fair, the same argument can be made for a lot of photography. Do you like a certain photo solely because of the process used to make it, or it it because of the intrinsic qualities of the image? Most of us like a certain image because of what we see in it, how it affects us, or that we relate to it in some way. The mechanical process of normal photography used to make the photo is far less interesting. The thought process leading to the making of the image, however, is often of interest to us. With pinhole photography, there is not only the making of the image, there is the making of the camera in a way that affects the image, so the entire process from the camera design to the final image is part of the thought process.
I will say that pinhole photography, because of its mechanical attributes - long exposures, great depth of field, never fully sharp, but detailed images, and the odd effects that are a result of making almost any dark container a camera, can lead us to make photographs that are unlike any other process. In that pinhole reality, people can accomplish amazing works that transcend time and physical constraints of the normal camera with a lens. Eric Renner took pinhole photography from the status of a clever classroom exercise to an artistic photographic genre that is still relevant and exciting. In Renner's book you'll see the work of a number of photographers, and I think that it can inspire others to try something new. Yes, pinhole photography can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, and it can show a "reality" that is not done with any other process.
Pinhole photography may be the perfect medium for this COVID-19 mess that we are in. Social distancing, shuttered stores and restaurants, closed off parks and natural areas, and those stay-at-home suggestions could result in some creative spark that a pinhole camera image is the perfect for.
Good luck tomorrow, and may your pinhole images be memorable!
I'll be using my Hamm Camera Pinbox camera - a cardboard camera that uses 120 roll film. So, I'm hoping for no rain.
Here's an image from my first roll from the Pinbox, using Ultrafine's Extreme 100 film.