Pinhole Camera Workshop


Contributor Judith Haaser gave pinhole photography a try in Jamie House’s workshop, as part of World Pinhole Photography Day.

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Imagine an ordinary can, a shoe box or a box of matches. Imagine taking photographs with them through a tiny hole – that is pinhole photography.

It was the morning of Sunday the 24th April and, out of curiosity and through an event suggestion on Facebook, I went to the Comma Five Art Space at the Barbican to take part in a Pinhole Camera workshop. The space is the former studio and living space of Robert Lenkiewicz (5 Southside Street). With the support of the current owner and the local community it hopefully will revive as an artist led studio space (more about this on page 14).

The workshop started with a warm welcome by Jamie House, our tutor for the day. We were a group of 9 hobby photographers with different backgrounds – a great mix of people coming from as far as Cornwall and Tavistock. The day started with a presentation about the history, photographers and art of pinhole photography.

Jamie House, photographer, educator and artist, makes his own pinhole cameras from balloons, art deco make-up boxes and parcels. He collaborates with artists and scientists around the world, and he has worked with Neurologist and Baroness Susan Greenfield and pinhole photographers Justin Quinell (U.K) and Jo Babcock (USA). His most recent exhibitions include the Dali Gallery, Southbank London and Brighton photo fringe festival, and “Ersatz Camera Work” exhibition, San Francisco (U.S.A). Currently Jamie is resident artist at Plymouth University and part time lecturer at Plymouth College of Art. Jamie has also delivered talks at the photographers Gallery London and his work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, Guardian and New Scientist magazine.

Negatives and exposures

A pinhole photograph of Comma Five Art Space on the Barbican

Making pinhole cameras

Taking photographs from the Hoe

I asked Jamie how the idea for this workshop and his passion for pinhole photography started; “My first photograph was taken with a converted baked bean tin capturing a wonderful view of the glorious Chepstow Castle (its claim to fame is that Ivanhoe was filmed there!). Since then I have been obsessed with Photography and making cameras. I went to make England’s largest camera obscura with maverick Pinhole photographer Justin Quinnell, then I went on to build a large camera obscura in a disused church for an Arts Council funded project called X-church. Ever since I have sent pinhole cameras disguised as parcels around the world for a project called Pinhole Parcel Project (”

He adds that in our pixel hungry world of photography, we spend a lot of time staring on screens. Jamie wants this pinhole workshop to be a breath of fresh air, going back to basics, exploring the fundamentals of photography and the magical chemical process of developing your own black and white prints in a darkroom.

“I want to fire up peoples’ interest in Science, Art and light through Photography. My art practice now consists of me charging paper and photographic films with 10,000 volts to produce Lictenburg figures that make wonderful fractal drawings.”

After we created our cameras out of cans, flower pots and shoe boxes (only using tape, a needle, tin foil and black card), we stepped into the darkroom and loaded the cameras with photographic paper before heading up to the Hoe for our first shot. You can only take one picture at a time – creating more than one camera came in handy! We went back to develop our first results and as most negatives looked slightly overexposed, we tried it again, and again and again. We also had tea and free cake from the Sweet Harmony Bakery. In the end all of us achieved some really good prints. It was a great day. Silvana (from Spain) said: “I really enjoyed this workshop. It was fun and so interesting; I will definitely try to continue with pinhole photography.”

In May 2016, Jamie launched his own company called Capture Great Photos, delivering workshops starting at Plymouth and touring across the South West of England to learn more and get daily photography tips and take part in weekly photochallenges with prizes. I am sure this was not his last amazing pinhole photography workshop!