I saw a post over on This Is Mimbres Man that reminded me that Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day passed on April 29th. Check out his images at Pinhole Photography. I made my first pinhole camera over 20 years ago out of a Quaker Oats container. And seeing the image come to life was the thrill of a lifetime. If you are a photographer, you’re probably as passionate about photographic processes as you are about the photos themselves.
It is similar to the way artists love their canvases, drawing papers, paints, and graphite. And writers have their favorite pens, papers, and notebooks. It’s no secret that creative souls spend a great deal of time and money on regular jaunts to the nearest independent office supply or art materials store. It’s in our blood. I could spend hours trying out pens, marking across pads, or choosing the right ink.
Process is important to any art form. And old style photographic processes teach a photographer the details of capturing light and shadow and transforming them to canvas. When I was in art school, I majored in Media Arts with an emphasis on black and white photography. But I took a lot of Fine Art classes to inform my processes. That’s when I began to dabble in alternative photographic media like pinhole photography, cyanotyping, brush on emulsions, mural prints, and exposing negative images on raw clay. It busted my photography wide open.
Digital has taken over the marketplace. But there are purists who still preserve the old methods of shooting and developing, people who are more fascinated by process than instant gratification. If I had endless amounts of dollars, I’d set up an elaborate art studio and darkroom on one whole floor of a new 5000 square foot home. I know what you’re thinking – I could jerry-rig a tiny darkroom into my bathroom right now if I wanted to.
That’s true. I’ve got an old enlarger in storage. But I’m feeling too worn out for the likes of 3am romps across splashing trays of developer, stop, and fix to get to the shower. And it sounds too perilous for our cat, Chaco, who has currently taken up residence in the bathroom sink.
What I do want to say is that I’m happy to still be able to find people like Mimbres Man and George L. Smyth at Handmade Photographic Images who are still doing it the old fashioned way. (Mimbres Man is also into insect noises and bottle rockets. So I head over to his site when I can to surf unusual behind the scenes happenings, the white noise in all our heads!)
If you’ve never experimented in the photography of yesteryear, there’s no time like the present. Handmade photographic processes are the world of photography’s best kept secret. They are image-making history and bones, photographic anthropology. Archaic practices will slow you down long enough to really listen to the visual. And build on the structures of the past.
Saturday, May 5th, 2007