Thursday, 10 February 2011


I'm a bit spoilt for choice as to what I can write about today, as so much is going on in my life right now it's starting to wear me down a little! Thankfully most things will be out of the way by the end of this week, but the tiny light at the end of the tunnel are the new ideas and projects that I can't wait to get started.

Firstly, today myself and a few other second, third and first years went to Narberth in Pembrokeshire to see an exhibition in the Queens Hall Gallery. There were some lovely photos by rather exotically named photographer Dragos Lumpan. It was all about Transhumance and documenting this ancient tradition that's slowly dying out in many parts of Europe and beyond. One of the main reasons we went there however was as part of our professional practice brief, to get us to learn how to get our work into galleries if we so wish. As it turns out, a few of the second years photos from the cinematography brief are going up in the gallery soon, including one of my own, which I'm rather excited about!

The image in question that's going to the gallery
I started to wonder what else I could do to submit to galleries, what I'd enjoy. My mind wandered back to the days when I was absolutely obsessed with pinhole photography. I couldn't get enough. I'd make my own cameras and experiment with various methods and materials. I even made a matchbox pinhole camera, which turned out pretty well. I'd spend hours developing things in the darkroom with the trays and the enlargers, seeing what worked and what didn't. It got a little lonely at times but I was addicted.

Blown out
One of the matchbox photos

Just a shadow
Shoebox photo

More of my old pinhole images can be found here :)

Anyway, back to the present day. I wondered if I should try it again, only instead of using light sensitive paper, maybe I should use film? I'd used 35mm film before for pinhole photography, but cutting it up into little squares proved difficult to develop (I resorted to putting a load of double sided tape in the tank, sticking the film to it emulsion side facing the centre of the tank and giving it a good shake. Seemed to work, but it was very fiddly!). I was recently re-introduced to 5"x4" cameras and I have to say, I love it.

I was a bit reluctant to try it out at first. I was feeling lazy that day when the tutor said we should give it a go. I didn't fancy spending forever focusing it, least of all on a bunch of bottles as a still life, but when the tutor suggested I do some portraits instead "Since that's what you're into",  my interested was piqued. I loved seeing the image upside down at the back, and having to hide under a black sheet is pretty funny, and the tilt shift effects you can do with it are pretty neat too. Not only that though, the image quality is second to none. Here you have a huge sheet of film, ready to be exposed. The worst part is making sure your subject doesn't move - it's difficult getting the eyes right on the focus plane, because once you've focused you have to close the shutter, put the film in the back, and then release the shutter. In that time the subject may have moved a little. But I think I did ok, all things considered!

Photographed and then inverted, not sure why it's blue but I like it! :D The black dots are my ceiling light.
My idea for this new project was simple. Paper was too limiting - you can't enlarge it unless you scan it in. 35mm film is too fiddly. But what about 5"x4" film? I could easily make a camera big enough to take that size film, and it wouldn't be much bigger (width wise at least) than a regular point and shoot. It being on film means I could enlarge the image to whatever size I like, plus I could scan it in at a high dpi if I really wanted to. Perfect! Why hadn't I thought of it before? I now had this excellent method of capturing an image, but what should I capture?

The beauty of film pinhole photography means you can create very long exposures without worrying about whether the sensor will get too hot, or if the batteries will last. You just open the cardboard shutter and let it go. If the hole is small enough and the film is a low enough ISO, you can get incredibly long exposure times, which is something I plan on taking full advantage of.

This project will cover several different places, usually busy areas, but I'll be using a long exposure. This creates a very eerie image, where nothing but the streets and buildings can be seen. Atta Kim did this too, somebody I discovered as part of my research into the subject as a foundation student, and his photo of 57th street has a strange, almost uncomfortable atmosphere to it. To me, it points out how we're all so busy in our lives that we don't pause for breath - only ghostly colours and figures appear, shadows of life. We're all so busy we hardly see life happen. It whizzes by so quickly we can scarcely take it in - even the camera only captures traces left behind.

This carries on from the project I started on my foundation course that I called (if I recall correctly, I'm going back a couple of years!) Transience. It'll be like falling in love with it all over again.

Tomorrow I'll be telling you about another project I'm working towards, this time more fashion and fantasy orientated!

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