April 27, 2006
Source: Daily Yomiuri
Written by Julian Satterthwaite
Stop counting your megapixels and shut down Photoshop. All you need to create beautiful pictures is a cardboard box, a sheet of photographic paper and a pin–the three ingredients for the most basic kind of pinhole camera. And since this coming Sunday (April 30th, 2006) is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, now is the perfect time to celebrate a technique that has roots going back to the fifth century B.C.
Now in its sixth year, Pinhole Photo Day has become a regular event on the photography calendar. Based around a Web-site-cum-online gallery (see box for more information), the organizers publish photos taken with pinhole cameras on the day. Anyone can submit a photo and have it published, with over 1,800 photographers taking part last year.
The day was started by a bunch of enthusiasts from around the world united by their love for a deceptively simple kind of photography.
“There’s an appeal on several levels,” says Pinhole Photo Day coleader Tom Miller in a telephone interview from the United States. “One is that it’s astounding to me that a pinhole camera works. There’s nothing high-tech about it–it’s just a hole in a piece of metal, and yet it can produce an image almost as well as a lens can.”
Indeed, there is a magiclike quality to pinhole cameras that is part of their fascination. Such devices are essentially nothing more than a light-tight box with a sheet of film or photographic paper at one end and a small hole at the other. There’s a little bit of science involved in the size of the hole and its distance from the paper or film, but with some guidance anyone can make their own pinhole camera and start taking photos.
For enthusiasts this is about much more than optical trickery, however, for pinhole cameras produce a range of unique effects that can be exploited for aesthetic effect.
For instance, depth-of-field is almost infinite–everything from the camera to the horizon is in focus. Wide-angle photos remain perfectly rectilinear even at the edges, with none of the distortion a traditional lens produces. Images can be sharp or distorted to taste by manipulation of the relationship between hole and paper. And the necessarily long exposure times produce otherworldly images that capture time as much as vision–moving water, for example, becomes a shimmering plane.
Above all, it’s an intuitive process that advocates say taps into the creative side of the photographer.
“With the slower approach, and the fact that there’s no viewfinder on the camera…you have to have something inside your head that says, ‘Hey, this is a picture that lends itself to pinhole treatment,’” Miller says.