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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 20th, 2010 : Chris Pinchbeck
Chris Pinchbeck is a commercial photographer, photography teacher, private pilot, bagpipe player, and pinhole image-maker from Hope, Maine.
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 think my first ventures into pinhole were while I was at school at Brooks Institute. In an odd way, it seemed like a great process to allow my less than technical tinkering side to flourish while creatively expanding, discovering and reinforcing the highly technical aspects of the medium I was learning from their curriculum. That would have been in 1992.

Chris Pinchbeck
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I started out with a simple box I'd made to accept 4x5 film and quickly began experimenting with different homemade cameras. One of my favorites, of the many both commercial and homemade cameras I have collected, was made from a gallon paint bucket with three pinholes for a 180 degree perspective. I would tape a sheet of 4x5 film around the surface of a soda can, then Velcro that to the inside back of the paint bucket. The results were great fun: three images all melding into one, 180 degree view on a 4x5 sheet of film - or - three different locations exposed on the same sheet, all melding into one. Great fun.

After school, I began my commercial photography business and the pinholes took a back seat, until that is, the commercial grind began to erode my passions and tinkering side of me. That's when the trailer idea began to form: as a way to re-energize my passion - the child within - for the magic of image making.
As far as creative influences, I would say - from a distance - Abelardo Morrell's work got my juices flowing for the idea. His obscura work had the idea of "bigness" but I carried it one step forward to the moving aspect. I knew there were people out there, like Pinky Bass, who had brought the mobile aspect to it as well, but I literally didn't know anything about their processes. It was the tinkering in me that led the direction I took.

Beyond pinhole artists, I would say my personal style was shaped early on significantly by lovely photographer and friend, Paul Lazarski. We led several workshops together and it was being out in the field with Paul, in front of the same subject matter, looking through one another's viewfinders at subtle differences, nuances, that really shaped the way I began to compose. Paul Liebhardt was an inspiration to me for his eye, art of observing light and keeping the medium simple. And, I worked for a couple of years with John Paul Caponigro and Paul Caponigro, obviously, both wonderful mentors in their own very different ways. I've never thought about it - but there were a lot of "Pauls" shaping my creativity. So I guess the short answer to who influenced my style would simply be: Paul.

In all seriousness, these latter people shaped me the most due to the closeness, the personal conversations, the affiliation and love we all shared with the medium. That's what affected my thinking the most, not so much admiration for work as viewed from a distance, but really getting to know the feelings on a personal basis of others within the medium.

Which characteristics of pinhole are most attractive to you and applicable to your work?

Simple: two things.

First, the lack of depth of field or constraints from a lens...or apparent sharpness from zero to infinity. What a great defining characteristic.

Second, especially for my work, length of exposure. It brings out a movement in the subjects within nature that we rarely would see with modern equipment. Yes, we can feather a waterfall or create star trails, but modern consumer equipment cannot record an entire tidal change, for instance, in the middle of the day. It won't pick up the beautiful elegance of the top of a tree blowing in the wind in bright sunlight.

Each print offers an element of surprise in that regard; epiphanies both large and small during the viewing experience.

I might mention as an aside as well that the trailer has made for a wonderful teaching tool for students of all ages. It's exhilarating to get inside with someone new to pinhole and have them, for the first time in darkness, reel with excitement in seeing the world outside upside down and backwards; cars, people traveling across the screen. It really ignites people and often they begin to understand the core of photography mostly as they'd never allowed themselves to do before jumping into the trailer. It's been a great catalyst to my teaching, my photography and my energy.

Copyright © 2010 Chris Pinchbeck
Hay Harvest, Rockland, Maine.
Which new techniques would you like to experiment within the year?
The "trailer camera" I've been speaking of is a utility box trailer towed behind my truck. It's simple and bare bones, 5x8ft. I cut a hole in one side directly above the wheel fender and framed that to create both a pinhole (which works out to be about f898) and what I call my "composition" hole, I think 3/8". This allows me to jump in and see an image right away - albeit fairly "fuzzy" but I get a general idea of the major shapes. I have a unique "chamber" with a sliding door that will barely fit me and that remains out of the trajectory of the pinhole image. I can get in this chamber after the paper is affixed, then can open the main trailer door to exit without fogging the paper.

I used to use a Fujichrome Direct Positive medium, but they no longer make it. So for a while I've been without material. Development, I left up to the labs with a machine. I'd send latent images in a light tight tube to them for processing.

My final print sizes were 30"x75" or thereabouts and to the best of my knowledge, represented the largest direct positive pinholes to have been made.

What creative tools and techniques do you use, such as any specific cameras, film, development, or printing processes?
When I first made the camera, I tested using Cibachrome. I came up time and time again with unacceptable results. I had better luck with Fujichrome direct positive so stuck with that. After Fuji discontinued their direct positive, I've now turned back to testing Ilfochrome. I'm excited to say I'm finally honing in on results that I like, so I plan to be back exposing my large prints this year. As you can imagine, at these light levels, the reciprocity failure is tremendous. I just hope they don't pull the plug on Ilfochrome DP any time soon.
Why is pinhole photography important to you?
I think I touched on this in previous questions. Pinhole imagery is important to me because it strips away all the bells and whistles manufactures have shoved down our throats. I actually find my students are more confused operating their cameras now than they were in the past. They have tremendous difficulty wading through WHAT flower mode, or mountain mode or person mode ACTUALLY does, they don't understand that one click of the aperture dial from f8 to f9 does NOT equal one full stop and this confuses them further as to actually what a "stop" is. It seems our digital cameras are supposed to be more user friendly, but they widen the gap on allowing people to really wade through, understand and hone the core concepts of photography; observing light and exposing that via time and opening.

So pinhole strips us down to the core. It allows us to experiment, it inspires us to energize the child within us, it welcomes observing and exposing light to be tangible, palpable, it invites us to feel the history of the medium, it gently forces us to slow down and breath it all in: all through a simple tiny hole. Simply put, it makes photography fun. Pretty energizing and magnificent, I would say.
Final Thoughts: I must say that Pinchbeck's trailer pinhole camera is one of the coolest contraptions that I've ever read about. I can't think of a better tool to illustrate the pinhole process than a camera that you can climb into. Explore more of Chris' work at He is also currently represented by Dowling Walsh Gallery.

- BJK, May 2010.