Monday, June 27th, 2011
Really good books cover enough background for you to understand the concepts behind their premise and enough practical guidance to start a journey along that path. In these criteria Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application (Fourth Edition) by Eric Renner is a gem. The first half of the text moves through pinhole’s history (both in science and art), the revival of pinhole, and a chapter on the camera obscura. The second half introduces the practical side of pinhole photography and provides a how-to guide for all things pinhole from beginner to advanced. If you’re interested in, or shoot, pinhole then this book probably belongs on your office library shelf.
Another aspect of Eric Renner’s work is his fastidious attention to academic referencing. In many non-fiction books it’s left as a given that the author is an expert and they often fail to lead you through the gamut of knowledge by more than a nose-ring of aggrandised self-proclamation. Not so, Renner. Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application is a work intended to credibly pass on a tome of the authors knowledge taken in stride of the footsteps that passed before. There is no attempt to self-proclaim all knowledge springs from the authors lips… instead, he walks the reader through the science, the art, the fascination of human beings with the camera obscura and the pinhole camera experience. And I, for one, appreciate being guided like a sensible adult along that knowledge trail.
My personal interest in pinhole has slowly been nurtured by the exposure that I’m getting to shooting medium format film. There is just something fascinating about dealing with film, having to make choices about making photographs that come at a time and money cost (as opposed to the digital spray-and-pray photography of my DSLR). What can be more challenging than going back to the most primitive equipment to explore what in some sense might be considered ‘real photography’ where the photographer has to understand the science. There is no camera or computer to think for you… it’s about science and knowledge and experiential exploration.
The single most fascinating part of this work has to be the huge number of pinhole images displayed and discussed throughout. My personal favourite being Figure 6.37 on page 183 – ‘Diva Tow-Up’, 10 x 8 inch pinhole photograph from Polaroid type 55 film, 2007. Jaw dropping powerful work that I wouldn’t have even suspected came from a pinhole camera.
If you’re looking for a definitive resource about pinhole then give this text your attention. The author is also heavily involved in a highly recommended website called Pinhole Resource where you can buy prints, equipment or share information. Maybe sometime in the near future I might see you on the dark side of photography shooting from a biscuit tin.