This is the first task we were assigned to for the module ‘Working With Light’.
Consider a place which, when populated by certain individuals or groups of people, is transformed momentarily. It may be a public space where people convene or a private space where for instance; a liaison takes place between two lovers.
Now investigate photographically, the personality of this place when it is devoid of human presence.
You will have little control of the light with your hand-made camera and so you will have to test and learn how it interprets the world. Through your testing you will begin to understand how the pinhole records an image and very quickly to project this vision onto your subject, before the negative is made. This understanding is what we refer to as pre-visualisation. It is especially important when working with such rudimentary equipment as (unless you make a more sophisticated version) your camera will have only one exposure in it.
My response to the task:
One day I we had some guests over at the house, and because the weather was good we decide to have dinner in the garden. When everyone finished eating an idea came in mind. I didn’t let anyone to clean up the table and send in to make some coffee. I went straight to my room and loaded the pinhole camera with a 5 x 7 resin coated, black and white paper. I used a garbage bin to keep the camera steady slightly higher than the table’s level and took a picture of the table. The table was full of cans and plates, some leftovers and glasses but no people.
I made three photographs with different exposure times, because my camera was still under construction and I didn’t have the time to test it. In this way I recorded a place that was devoid of human presence. When in the darkroom I found out that I needed less exposure time and because I couldn’t recreate the moment I used the best one only. It took me too much time to make a good contact print but it was exciting to find out that my new pinhole was working well enough. I still need to make some modifications to the shutter but here are the results.
I really liked the idea of making a working pinhole camera and was intrigued by the numerous custom designs; so I thought I should build a more sophisticated design than the pringle pot camera.
The pringle pot camera had some disadvantages, one of them and most important being, the size of paper I could fit on the lid. Many people used the body of the pot to load the paper and a hole across it, but I didn’t like the idea I knew how wide angled photographs they’d be. The second issue was the focal length. Because of its shape and the way I placed the paper and the hole I had a focal length of 237mm, which limited my field a lot.
I went ahead to build a new one, that would be rectangular, flexible and user friendly. As I was leaving Ellen Terry building I noticed the staff had put out many file folders and boxes that were second hand, but in a good shape. I picked three of them to have options in case my experiment didn’t go well.
The advantage with these boxes is that they are ready-made and the only things left to modify is the light-proofing capability as well as make a hole. I used mostly electrical tape, gaffer tape and some packaging carton paper and a paper cutter. The camera can hold up to 5x7in paper negative, it has an aperture of 108.33 and a working aperture of 128. The focal length is 70mm, but it can be adjusted to smaller focal lengths. The size of the hole is about 0.6mm and that can change when need to. I tested it and there were no light leaks.
Because with this pinhole I didn’t plan and just added up features along the way, it had some small issues. So I decided to start a new one from scratch, build it after I have designed it and buy proper material instead a ton of tape. I bought some pva glue, more tape if in need, found more carton paper and started. My main concern was to make it light-proof without compromising its outer structure so as to open and close like it was made to. Unfortunately it’s not ready yet, because other things came up but I have got photographs of it to show you how it looks so far.
As explained in the first post on Basic Pinhole, camera obscura works on fundamental principles of physics and it’s fairly easy to make one yourself. So right after we finished the Advanced Pinhole session with George, we had planned to convert a room into a giant pinhole. George had with him big pieces of black paper to cover the windows and tape. I took us while to cover every window of the room, but in the end we had a pitch black room.
The area behind the window, where the light will be projected had a magnetic wall material, which allowed us to hang the photo-sensitive paper. The paper was about 4 x 1.5 metres and quite heavy to hold it with magnets. That is why the project was better in this collaborative way of working instead individual work. Two people were holding the paper still; one person was operating the shutter, two people taking readings with light meters in and out of the camera obscura. Melissa Stapleton was operating the digital camera and of course everyone helped out in light proofing the room. When we were putting up the paper we used a couple safelights in order to find our way in the room.
Thanks to a useful application on my phone I was able to take readings of the environment outside the camera as well as keep them logged.
Below are some digital photographs from inside the camera obscura, taken by Melissa Stapleton.
After we exposed the paper we rolled it up and put in two lightproof bags and moved it straight in the darkroom. We cleaned up the room and head to the darkroom to find out how we were going to develop this massive negative. We used two big tanks we have in the darkroom. The first one filled with developer and the second one with water. Happily Jason Tilley was around at the time and he gave us hand rolling the negative in and out of the developer, the water bath, the fixer and finally washing it. We sure did a mess in the darkroom, but it worth the time and effort.
Below is the converted digital positive of the negative, by George Rippon.
Finally a photograph from the inside of the camera.