04 March 2012

Through a hole, darkly

I have been experimenting recently with my pinhole camera.  It's a very simple device; it has no viewfinder, batteries, or play-back function, and uses medium-format film.

Because of the rudimentary nature of camera – and because the shutter must be manually opened for a number of seconds – the resulting images are blurry and atmospheric and warp in delightful ways.

This sort of photographic practice chimes with my project in a number of respects.  To start, because the shutter is open for so long, the images better capture the animation of things and spaces.  It captures movement – the unsteadiness of my hand, the flow of the city, and the vibrations of stationary things.

Equally as exciting to me, the camera itself feels like a thing as opposed to a technology.  In this, way, the camera remains a thing among things through the photographic process.

Because I don’t need to hold it to my face, the pin-hole camera doesn’t mediate my experience of the space.  My presence in the scene remains uninterrupted.  The camera, the other things in the shop, the shopkeeper, and I can all actively be in the space as its light and colour are captured on film.

The camera has become a welcomed talking point with shopkeepers.  Whereas the D-SLR can feel techy and conspicuous, the pin-hole is charming and unobtrusive. 

Although photography need not be about taking, street photography is often associated with masculinity, aggression, and a patriarchal way of seeing.   Certainly participation and openness can be felt in digital street photography as well.  Still, it feels like the pin-hole camera tends towards greater sharing, participation, and parity.

I am really taken by the softness of the images in contrast to the characteristic plasticity or shininess of the brands.  The pin-hole camera literally takes the edge off and references the tenderness of the curation. It seems to challenge the linearity and brandedness of the things in these places.  By capturing pattern and colour, the pin-hole melts these brands into the texture of the city.

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