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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.

May 14th, 2010 : Blue Mitchell
Blue Mitchell is an artist, editor, curator, and graphic designer based in Portland, Oregon.
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 first introduced to pinhole photography in 1998 while studying film at Montana State University. At the time there were no alternative process or pinhole classes being offered so I wrote up a independent study class syllabus that coupled pinhole and gum bichromate and proposed it my advisor. She loved the idea and set me free. My first camera was made out of the traditional quaker oats box - I was drawn to the curved plane and loved how the images fell off on the edges. I was making paper negatives by the dozens and found them to be more dynamic than the positive prints made from them. The more successful images were balanced with small foreground objects and large background environment - which, because of the distortion of the bent plane and the pinhole, reversed the effect. Background environments became minor and warped, while the foreground objects became giant. I also played with motion and moved objects around to create ghost-like images. Pinhole 101 at its best!

The gum portion of the independent study was not as successful, in fact I may have pulled only one successful print - I think I needed proper instruction rather than trying to learn from a book.

I ended up matting and framing the pinhole negatives and presented them under black-light. I've always been obsessed with the use of light in art and so it seemed natural to me to show the work like this for my final review - although very impractical in any gallery setting. I later exhibited the series in a local coffee shop (minus the blacklight) but that was the extent of their life.

Blue Mitchell
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Which characteristics of pinhole are most attractive to you and applicable to your work?
Abstraction! "Don't believe everything you think!" I'm not much of a straight shooter, I tend to implement some sort of abstraction or manipulation in my work, and pinhole is no exception. It posed the question about the debatable "truths" in photography way before digital manipulation. Pinhole is where we started and still challenges the photographer and viewer to see the world around them differently.

Copyright © 2010 Blue Mitchell
My Two Selves in Their Natural Habitat
Holga Wide Pinhole, Kodak Ektar 100
Which new techniques would you like to experiment within the year?
I'm going back to the drawing board with my Holga wide pinhole camera and shooting black and white nudes. I've abandoned working with the nude figure for several years and have finally found a camera that can help me revisit the figure and hopefully actualize my vision.

I dabble a lot, but haven't tried Caffenol development yet...I think it's time. I also picked up an old Polaroid "The Button" for the Impossible Project's new instant film PX 100 - love the sepia!
What creative tools and techniques do you use, such as any specific cameras, film, development, or printing processes?
My current series "Evanescent Energy" is shot with the Holga or TLR on Velvia film. I burn the original positives to create a surreal, mystical environment. Often these images are later transferred to wood using the Acrylic Lift method (visit my website for a tutorial).

Depending on the project, I use a variety of other cameras: Holga, cheap plastic 35mm's (love the underwater casing), several home made or converted pinholes, and the fore mentioned Holga wide pinhole with Kodak's Ektar 100, several vintage cameras, yada yada, the list goes on. I also shoot with a digital SLR and my handy iphone for on-the-go shots.

Diffusion magazine sprang forth from the imagination of Blue Mitchell out of a passion to showcase fellow artists pushing the boundaries of traditional photographic processes. In an era of dwindling traditional publications, Diffusion strives to introduce new and innovative voices with articles, interviews and image galleries not commonly found online or in other print magazines. Unlock your eyes, and enjoy.

View the site for yourself and preview the latest issue.


Plates to pixels
Blue mitchell is the Curator of Plates to Pixels Gallery.

Plates to Pixels was formed in 2007 to promote the creation of photography-based fine art and was established by artists, for artists. The name "Plates to Pixels" suggests the evolution of photography from the archaic wet-plate process to the new digital format of pixels and includes everything in between.

View the site for yourself.
Why is pinhole photography important to you?
Like I mentioned pinhole is essentially the of birth photography, without photography...well I'd be force to paint, and that my friends is a bad idea! For me, that first experience with the Quaker Oats pinhole was partly why I switched my major to photography. I'm also continually impressed by the creativity I see in other pinhole photographers, I'm so glad to be a part of it all.
 
Final Thoughts: Mitchell is an artist to admire. His two projects, Plates To Pixels and Diffusion, are excellent resources and outlets for artists who experiment with alternative techniques. He graciously provided an outline of his Acrylic Transfer printing process for me to learn and review when finishing The Pinhole Camera. I would encourage you to review the work that he is involved in, both personally and professionally.

- BJK, May 2010.