One spring a few years ago, the downtown Ann Arbor District Library put on a workshop in their Secret Lab about making pinhole cameras. I decided this would be a good thing to do with the kids to get us out of the house on a cloudy Saturday. The library gave us the materials and some printed instructions to make one camera each — a box, some black paint, a little square of copper foil, a needle to make the pinhole, and some tape.
We followed the instructions and ended up with something that looked like the taped up cardboard box below. Capturing a photo meant sliding a little panel we’d made to expose the pinhole, leaving it open for some amount of time, then sliding it closed.
One of the cameras made at the library — with some modifications.
When we had all completed assembling our cameras, the library staff took them into a darkroom and mounted a piece of light-sensitive photo paper into each one, then sent us outside with some advice about how to take a picture. We poked around in the library courtyard, trying to decide what might make a interesting photos while also keeping the camera steady for the 6 minutes they recommended for the exposure. When we were done, we brought the cameras back inside, and the library staff developed the photos for us while we waited. This photo of mine is what emerged from the red-light glow of the darkroom.
It might not look like much, but this first success stirred something in me. I’d never developed photos by hand before. I didn’t even have a darkroom. But I knew I had to figure out how to do this at home…
Stay tuned for part 2: “You use what to develop photos??”
For more examples of my pinhole photos, head back up to my website or follow me on Instagram (@glenn010101).
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