The draw of pinholes

Some people at art shows have asked me what I like about this method, especially when there are digital cameras with such dynamic color ranges, have super high fidelity, and are so easy to use. They have a point. My cameras are bulky and can’t be used on windy or rainy days because they’re made out of cardboard. It takes 5-10 minutes to take a typical picture, and a couple hours to develop a small batch of them. I don’t even have a viewfinder to see what I’m shooting. And it’s true: I do have an iPhone that can take perfectly good photos – sometimes quite stunning photos – with no effort. And if I don’t like a shot, I can take 20 more until I get one I do like.

So when people ask me that question, there are lots of reasons I can give. The tangibility of it, the hands-on nature of every step in the process. The experimental, DIY aspects – I made this camera! That being in my darkroom reminds me of my grandfather and his home development hobby, that working with the cameras reminds me of that first workshop with my kids. The intentionality of taking time to make a single photo. The discovery in each one, never knowing how it’s going to turn out until the very end of the process. Or that this cardboard box, this developer made of coffee, can produce photos that have a distinct feel that sets them apart from most modern photography practiced today.

There are many kinds of magic in this humble little box camera.