2008 – year of the pinhole

Can something as esoteric, marginal and, arguably, irrelevant as a narrow technique (pinhole) within a mass-medium of communication (photography) change the world for the better? I wouldn’t dare to make such grandiose claims. Nor twelve months ago would I have believed anybody who told me that to make a box out of old MDF with a tiny hole in the front might have the potential to change the way I see and relate to the world.

On 1st January I started a blog, more out of curiosity than from having a crucial message to communicate. I had doubts about whether anybody would read it, what I should write, and above all how I would translate this whirl of sensations, impressions and ideas inside my head into something not only intelligible but coherent and interesting. I am still unsure of my readership but from my server logs I know approximately 10 people subscribe to my rss feeds and somewhere around 20 visitors a day cast their eyes over my words and images. If you are one of these, I hope that you have found your visits worthwhile. I have been surprised by the contacts – all without fail hugely positive – I have had with hitherto unknown browsers of the internet over the past 365 days. I suppose we all have good times and bad times, and during the bad times the comments and emails which have arrived with uncanny timing have helped to encourage me to carry on working with confidence that someone else is benefiting from my publishing. How strange it is that one is more willing to believe a total stranger than one’s own view of new photographs and ideas! In any case, the two-way channel of the blog has helped me and many others too, so for me this counts as a success which needs no further qualification.

More than this though, the past year has brought me into contact with many people whom I now call friends, even though most of them I have never met in the flesh. The wonderful, world-shrinking medium of the internet has become a strong, interlinking, empowering stage for kindred spirits to engage with one another. I have had a number of messages from people who have found what I do inspiring and I have found their perspectives on my work equally inspiring and uplifting. So, can just another photo blog change the world? It has changed mine dramatically and, if I believe what many of those who have contacted me have said, then the reverse also applies. I love the reciprocal nature of all this. I now try to post on the blogs of other photographers whenever possible to maintain the motion of this positive, life-enhancing virtual world we inhabit these days and love to hear from anyone who has thoughts or feelings about my own posts.

2008 has therefore been the Year of the Pinhole for me, or perhaps that should be the year of the blog? I’d like to sign off with a list of the highlights of my year none of which would have occurred without a a box of recycled wood with a hole in it and a sudden impulse back in January to formalise this in a blog and throw it open to all-comers. These are in no particular order:

  • Ella Bloomfield invited me to one of her poetry readings having found my work and references to her poetry via this blog. Watching and listening to her perform “The Songbirds” which inspired my Dream of Flight series in the medieval hall of The Abbey in Oxfordshire while the elements raged loudly outside is an experience which remains fresh in my mind and heart today.
  • Working with Henry Blake to set up his gig with my images projected at the Blag Club in London.
  • Meeting the wonderful and talented Vicky Slater and talking shop for a whole afternoon back in October.
  • Finding my work unexpectedly reviewed and appreciated by Katie Cooke and Web Urbanist.
  • Being chosen by Chris Keeney as his featured pinhole photographer for December.
  • Being constantly surprised by the messages and comments received from numerous readers, both photographers and non-photographers alike.
  • Being the recipient of two beautiful, hand-crafted wooden pinhole cameras from Mark Goddard in Carlisle.
  • Finding a book on etching techniques fall through my letterbox from Deirdre Thompson who had read the bookbinding posts in the blog.

So heartfelt thanks to anybody who got in touch by whatever means this year. And thanks to those who displayed to me such generosity of spirit by including me in their own artistic circles and endeavours. I have a number of projects on the boil for 2009, not the least of which is the completion of Dream of Flight and the creation of the book.

I also have a number of new images which I will be posting over the coming weeks and my intention was to post one today. I would like however to repost the photograph which has solicited the greatest amount of interest since May when I first published it and which has become the totem image in my own mind for everything which is positive and exhilarating about making and showing art, the image “Release”. Have a happy and fulfilling 2009.

Dream of flight – release

Winter trees, rooks

Oaks and rookery

I always love the intricacy of oaks against the leaden winter sky and the primeval, elemental cawing of rooks at dusk. It really is one the great joys of winter; a simple, subtle pleasure which never seems to diminish.

Aber Bach rock

Aber Bach rock

I am preparing for the purchase of an etching press by finding what I think are suitable images for the process. This one of the beach at Aber Bach in Wales shows interesting tones in the sky and water plus a nice heavy pinhole vignette as a surround. It seems to be an ideal candidate for a first attempt.