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Take 5 Interview
The Take 5 Interview series is a continuation of featuring selected pinhole artists from around the planet. Each artist is asked a set of five questions that will shed light on their persona, their portfolio, and their creative take on this intriguing art form called pinhole photography. All questions are derived by Brian J. Krummel and answered by the respective artist in their own words.

April 9th, 2010 : Gregg D. Kemp
Gregg D. Kemp lives and works in Durham, North Carolina.

When did you first get interested in pinhole photography and how long have you been practicing this art form? List any creative influences that have shaped your own personal style.
I was introduced to pinhole photography in 1972 while at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. A couple of students from Georgia were passing through Richmond and gave our class a short workshop on making and using pinhole cameras. I remember their cameras were decorated in hand painted paisley patterns. Having been a former art student, I was immediately attracted to the idea of making cameras and making images from them. For the rest of the course, I used pinhole cameras as my primary camera for class assignments. Interestingly, Willie Anne Wright was at VCU around the same time and was also introduced to pinhole photography around the same time. Yet we never met until years later.

Gregg D. Kemp
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Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
This is gregg's first homemade pinhole camera, circa 1972.
For the next few years, I experimented with various camera designs, black and white and color film, paper negatives, and longer and longer exposures. I made my first color photo around 1974. I don't remember seeing any other pinhole photos during those years, other than those of fellow students. The first public prints I remember seeing were those of Ruth Thorne-Thomsen in the early 1980's. I continued to make and exhibit pinhole images into the early 1980's when I learned that Lauren Smith was publishing a book on pinhole photographers. I was excited and sent her about 20 slides for consideration. I was turned down and that was a big blow to me at that time. I had spent several years working on my pinhole images and had never met anyone else doing this. I had no idea there were others out there working with pinhole cameras. The book "The Visionary Pinhole" came out around 1984 and it was exciting to see all the great work. I got a letter from Eric Renner around the same time. He was starting the Pinhole Resource and making contact with other pinhole artists. He had gotten my name along with others from Lauren Smith. But feeling a bit discouraged, I didn't reply to Eric's letter and I cut back on my pinhole photography for a while.

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
Ride My Bike #1
pinhole image, archival pigment ink on HahnemÜhle FineArt paper, 12x16 inches, 1972, limited signed edition of 50

one of gregg's first pinhole images which he still personally likes.
I spent the eighties and nineties mostly painting. I used an air brush at the time. The air brush creates a soft image not unlike a pinhole image. And I continued my photography by "painting with light", using a 4x5 view camera. And these photos were long exposures in the dark, not unlike many of my pinhole images. So, in a sense I was still exploring some of the same things I did with the pinhole cameras, but in different ways and different media.
You were a founding member of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. Tell us where the idea of WPPD started, how the first one was pulled off, and your role in facilitating this global, community event.
The idea of "Pinhole Day" began when some people posted "happy valentine" day wishes to the "pinhole discussion list" that I hosted on my Pinhole Visions website server. One of the list members, Zernike Au suggested that it would be nice if pinholers had their own day.

The discussion took off and everyone liked the idea. James Kellar was the list moderator at the time and he and I talked about how we might give some shape to the idea, how we might make it happen. He suggested some people who might be willing to put in some time to organize an international "pinhole day". Over a few days time, James and I contacted Zernike, Diana Bloomfield, Jean Daubas, Larry Fratkin, Guy Glorieux, Edward Levinson, Pam Niedermayer, Guillermo Peñate and George Smyth and invited them to participate as a "coordinating team" and that was the formal start of it.

We spent the next few weeks developing the rules, guidelines, publicity information, and of course the website— www.pinholeday.org. We let the pinhole discussion list suggest and vote on the name and the day of the event and "Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day" on the last Sunday of April won the vote. It was an exciting time for many of us on the team. Guy, Jean, Diana and I especially corresponded continuously on text revisions up until the day of the event. Jean, Guy and I found out we were all insomniacs and would often exchange emails throughout the night and into the early morning as we revised texts and I coded the programs to upload images, display and search the gallery, and allow the site content to be translated into any number of languages.

It was actually an enormous task to pull off, but we did it in only about 2 months. And, it has endured for 10 years now with very few changes to the rules or the site. It is especially gratifying to see how many people have contributed their time and skills in translating the site into an increasing number of languages, in helping to promote the event throughout the world, in giving workshops and participating around the world in this creative and fun activity.

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
experimental pinhole image. one-day exposure on a turntable in the sun. the plastic palm trees were mounted to the camera.
As owner and operator of the Pinhole Visions website, you provided a valuable resource for pinhole photographers. How long was that website, pinhole.com, online and what where the final reasons for retiring the site?
I started the Pinhole Visions website in 1997. I bought the domain name "pinhole.com" second-hand. It had belonged to a plumber who had an expertise in locating leaking pinholes in pipes. He lost his site and the webmaster sold me the domain name. I was interested in learning about website development and I combined that with my interest in pinhole photography to create the site. I wrote the original site in the Perl language, then switched to PHP and MySQL, learning both along the way.

One of my goals was to incorporate all of the site management into the site itself so that others could help me edit the site content. The site had two galleries, one for large exhibitions and one for smaller shows of 6 or so images. At that time, it was not as easy for artists to put up a website to show their work, so the galleries provided worldwide exposure to a number of pinhole artists. Exhibitions were organized, packaged and promoted. The site also had an "International Directory of Pinhole Photographers" that was updated regularly. The "news" page covered anything I could find on the internet related to pinhole photography. The "Learning Resource" section contained both original articles and links to other sites on the web. But the most active part of the site was the listing of events such as workshops, gallery shows, lectures, etc. Openings and current events were always on the front page of the site and all past events were stored and searchable by artist or location. I kept the site up until last fall, so it had a good run I think. I enjoyed meeting a lot of fine people through the site and seeing a lot of fine pinhole images. It was also nice having help from others who edited parts of the site over the years. But as the internet grew and more resources became available for image and information sharing and social networking, I felt there was less need for the site. It had served its purpose well, but it was time to move on.

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
promotional material posted on pinhole.com to provide artists with more exposure.
Much of your recent portfolio is rooted in Solargraphy. Please explain your basic approach to capturing a Solargraph image. What attracts you to this technique?
One of the things I enjoy about making solargraphs is the long duration of the exposure. When I first started making pinhole images I became fascinated with stretching out the duration of the exposure. One of my early favorite pinhole photos was an all day exposure of my apartment in Richmond, Virgina.

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
living room, 24 hours
Image made on 4x5 color negative film. 1974.
So that aspect of pinhole photography has always been of interest to me. In another set of pinhole photos, around 1973, the sun burns in a pattern as I ride my bike. I started making night long pinhole photos of the full moon around 2002. Then I started making multi-day pinhole exposures (solargraphs) in 2006, putting out cameras from one solstice to the next to get the full range of the sun's paths from the highest to the lowest. But I've also experimented with single day exposures and introduced motion and other things into these exposures. This year I've planted cameras to capture "Spring" through the blooming of trees. These exposures will last around 3-4 weeks.

The basic approach to solargraphs is to simply expose a black and white paper negative, pointed directly toward the sun's path, for several days, weeks, or months. Once exposed, the black and white paper will result in a color negative. In a darkened room, remove the exposed negative and place it on a scanner. I scan my negatives as large as I can without causing the scanner to rest in the process. If the scanner stops during the scan (to process a really large scan) then there may be a visible streak in the scan. For example, I scan a 5x7 negative at 600 dpi. The scanner should be set to scan as RGB color. Then, in Photoshop or some other editing program, invert the negative and you will see the color positive. The color may not look natural, but it does take on some interesting colors.

Something else I find interesting with solargraphs is the effect of water or extremes of heat and cold on the negative. My entire crop of solargraphs in 2008 was severely damaged by water and whatever else. At first I was very disappointed, but the more I studied the scans, the more I liked what I saw. These have now become some of my favorite pinhole images. I print these images onto canvas, mounted them on wood, and then sculpt and paint unique frames that merge and blend into and over the images.

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
Tree Branch
archival pigment inkjet pinhole photograph, 'carve & cast' and acrylic on canvas mounted on wood, 19x43 inches
I'm building cameras now where I am attempting to allow a small amount of water to soak into the camera. The water stains react the the paper chemicals in interesting ways. I call these "solar chemographs".

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
Earth, Wind, Fire and Water
archival pigment ink and acrylic on canvas mounted on wood, 13x16 inches
Why is pinhole photography important to you?
I've been making pinhole cameras and pinhole photographs for almost 40 years and it continues to satisfy and surprise me. I like the slow nature of the process and the sometimes unexpected results. And I tend to like the people who do it. I've met some really nice people through pinhole photography.

Copyright © 2010 gregg d. kemp
Long-Days
pinhole solargraphic image, archival pigment ink and watercolor on watercolor paper, 2010.
 
Final Thoughts: The scope of Gregg's pinhole work spans an impressive 40 years. With his latest Solargraphy series, Gregg experiments with the properties of sun and moon and the characteristics they impart on a light-sensitive surface; however, that is only half of the creative equation. He skillfully combines photo imagery with sculpture techniques and innovative printing methods to create wonderful masterpieces.

- BJK, April 2010.