There is something very enticing about stripping away complexity, going back to the source, starting again. In the case of film photography nothing can be simpler than taking photographs with a pinhole camera. But actually it’s not that easy.


My pinhole camera: a Zero with an aperture of f. 138. The format is 120.

As ‘pinholers’ know, looking at the world with a pinhole camera is to look at it in a different way. Complexity is stripped away: the only variables open to the photographer are film type and exposure time. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the absence of a viewfinder. Judgement and serendipity replace frame lines and a focus knob.

As suggested, the challenge is to observe the world in a different way. Soft but infinite depth of field coupled with an ultra wide perspective and longer exposure times put you in a different visual zone. I imagine it’s a lot like looking at the world as if you were a lizard.

So my first pinhole pictures played with the advantages of long exposure and wide perspectives:

Zero with Ilford FP4 developed in HCC110. Exposure about 30 seconds.
Zero with Ilford FP4 developed in HCC110. Exposure about 30 seconds

The second image has an error – the shutter was not pulled back fully in the top left hand corner.

So, a lot to learn. The promise is clear though – learning to ‘see’ differently. Perhaps all photographers learning their craft should start with pinhole?

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