Two metres: Isolation Pinhole

Within the darkness of the obscura, light reached in to every corner.

The twentieth celebration of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day fell on 26th April 2020. Pinholers and would-be pinholers around the world are invited to participate in pinhole photography on the last Sunday of April each year and to upload a single image made on the day to the WPPD website for display in that year’s gallery Exhibition.

I have participated in WPPD for several years and this year was to be no exception. For some weeks I have been thinking of subject matter and what ‘equipment’ I might use or make with which to capture an image. My planning actually began six months prior to the day with the placement of four coffee-can solargraph pinhole cameras. The intention was to have at least two of these exposing for the full six months ending on 26th April. One was removed from it’s post, never to be seen again, a second was opened after three months to check that all was in order, leaving two to run the full course.

Of course, six months ago coronavirus was not known. There was no pandemic and no lockdown restriction on movement. The two remaining pincams were placed on each of my two daughters’ homes. With a few weeks to go I realised that I might need to rely on my daughters closing the shutters on my behalf and to store the pincams until they could be retrieved and the images within scanned. I needed a Plan B.

Initially Plan B was to prepare pincams to use while out for my permitted exercise and my previous blog post shows some images made on a trial run. However as WPPD drew nearer I wanted more to make an image that somehow reflected on the strange times of the pandemic lockdown. I decided to make a room into an obscura into which a view of the outside world would be projected and in which I could sit in solitude and in silence, watching around me an inverted mirror image of a world from which I was isolated.

The obscura idea developed. I could attempt to make a long exposure photograph of the image within or I could attempt to set up photographic paper on which to record the image. In the UK social distancing measures required that individuals remain a minimum of two metres apart. I decided to set up my paper two metres from the pinhole. A 2mm hole drilled in aluminium reclaimed from a beer can was placed in the blackout material covering the window. I looked out an old projection screen that would assist in framing my image and to act as a support for an array of 10″x8″ sheets of Ilford MGRC paper – the largest I had to hand. The paper array would have to be assembled by safelight once the room/obscura was closed and packed away in a like manner after exposure and before I could emerge from the room. I would be alone for some time.

The image was made not long after sunrise. I had to guess at an exposure and allowed 40 minutes. Allowing for setting up, taking down and just sitting in the quiet of the obscura soaking up the experience, I was in the world of the outside within for about 90 minutes. I watched and listened to birds flying upside down in front of me, the occasional vehicle or pedestrian passing the wrong way, the trees sweeping the sky in the easterly breeze that seemed to be coming from the west. I thought of those whose lives at this time are topsy-turvy, confused and worse, confined to a narrow, unchanging view of a world from which they have been isolated.

But the feeling was not a negative one. In my head I had imagined sitting alone in the dark but in fact I found myself surrounded by light. From a hole just two millimetres in diameter, light and with it the life of the outside world seemed to permeate every nook and cranny of the room. There was light and the light was good.

The contact-printed image hanging on the wall of the room in which it was made

My submission to the WPPD Gallery Exhibition can be viewed at http://www.pinholeday.org/gallery/2020/?id=823 along with many other inspired and wonderful pinhole images posted from around the globe.

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