Print

Retreat

Print. An image from Infinity’s Edge made with a Populist on HP5+. I have to admit this one is growing on me a lot, perhaps because of its location. It was exposed almost exactly on the spot where my son, Finn, had a sobering and terrifying experience when stumbling out his depth in a swirling and fast-rising tide just a few hours before. The louring, dark rocks, the obvious hole and the single footprint hint at the potential tragedy.

Memories of the coast

Memories of the coast

Listening to Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury last week with all the raw power of his performance made me think, as music often does, of photography. In particular, the roughness and honesty of rock music brought to mind pinhole photography. In contrast to the smoothness of the large-format images I have been working on recently, pinhole engages the viewer with its immediacy and its lack of pretence – qualities which would sit far less comfortably with more technically advanced media. The lack of polish brings its own excitement and a force which somehow bypasses the intellect and reaches us in a much more elemental manner.

I am often asked why I use pinhole cameras rather than some of the lovely, glassy hardware I keep in the cupboard at home. Usually I find myself at as much of a loss to describe my reasons as I am to explain how or why I am touched by music. But with rock music in mind, I think now that it is this very rawness which grabs me so much; it gives somehow a direct experience of reality even though represented in a two-dimensional, vicarious medium.

The photograph above illustrates this quite perfectly in its imperfection. My fabulous little cardboard Populist – made from a cereal packet – seems to be getting more erratic in how it winds the film through the spool. Here the ragged edges and overlaps of three different frames have embodied – far better than the smoothest, most professional photograph ever could – the remembered excitement of standing at the water’s edge at the start of a week’s holiday, mixed with the melancholy apprehension that in a few short days the stay will be finished.

As usual, click the image to view it bigger.

Tides

Tides

Sometimes it is wonderful to leave the basic and rudimentary approach of pinhole behind to engage in a more crafted photography. My recent re-acquisition of a beautiful 4×5 Crown Speed Graphic has given me the chance to indulge myself once more with high-definition images. The prints which are possible from these large negatives are truly breath-taking in their beauty and depth. Here I was experimenting with my standard Ilford Multigrade paper as negative material and multiple exposures of around 1/8 second. Click the photo to see it big – it needs the extra scale.