Pinhole Photography

Imagination plays a key role in the creative process of pinhole photography, as a pinhole camera has no viewfinder or lens. Specific attributes of the pinhole camera create a softening of detail, a lessening of surface glare and reflection in the image, together with an infinite depth of field, natural vignetting and a modulation of colour.

These characteristics are fundamental as they emphasise light over surface detail and facilitate a subtle shift in the reality normally observable with the naked eye, imbuing images with an atmospheric quality conducive to contemplation and wonder.

Time is recorded slowly in one image.

What is a Pinhole Camera?

A pinhole camera consists of a blackened, lightproof box with a tiny pinhole on one side. Light enters through the pinhole sized aperture, strikes the opposite wall of the box and records an image upside down on light sensitive paper or film. Exposure times are usually long, from seconds to minutes and even to hours.

Pinhole images are soft.

What is a Zone Plate?

A zone plate is a plate of glass marked out into concentric zones or rings alternately transparent and opaque, used like a lens to bring light to a focus. Unlike lenses or curved mirrors, the zone plate uses diffraction rather than refraction or reflection.

Zone Plate images glow.

What is a Camera Obscura?

The pinhole camera utilises a naturally occurring phenomenon, which is now known as a camera obscura.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the camera obscura was the ancestor of the photographic camera. The Latin name means “dark chamber,” and the earliest versions, dating to antiquity, consisted of small darkened rooms with light admitted through a single tiny hole. The result was that an inverted image of the outside scene was cast on the opposite wall, which was usually whitened.

For centuries the technique was used for viewing eclipses of the Sun without endangering the eyes and, by the 16th century, as an aid to drawing; the subject was posed outside and the image reflected on a piece of drawing paper for the artist to trace. Portable versions were built, followed by smaller and even pocket models; the interior of the box was painted black and the image reflected by an angled mirror so that it could be viewed right side up.

The introduction of a light-sensitive plate by J.-N. Niepce created photography.

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