Memories of the coast

July 8, 2009

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.

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