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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.

June 18th, 2010 : Spiffy Tumbleweed
I'm better known in the photography world as Spiffy Tumbleweed, but my given name is Michael J. Wolszon. I live in Austin, Texas, and direct the IT operations for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
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 interest in pinhole photography grew out of a larger interest in alternative process, old school, hands on photography, which was primarily a reaction to the sterility of digital photography. I have been practicing pinhole for 4-5 years now and it is a primary focus in my photography. Oddly enough, I find my pinhole work to be influenced strongly be my access to materials. A good deal on old 16 x 20 photo paper moved me in to very large format pinhole work which altered my way of shooting and ultimately brought me to shooting for the in-camera negative as a final product. Previewing a scene in negative light is a worthwhile mental exercise that forces you to consider the nature of light in new ways. Access to a variety of large format X-ray and other medical films again caused me to build cameras for those materials and shaped my approach to shooting those materials, and likewise had an impact on my personal style.

The creative influence of other pinhole artists is undeniable, but difficult to pinpoint. I have a number of Flickr contacts who continually inspire me with their amazing pinhole work, and I freely steal their ideas and concepts. While I don't attempt to duplicate their work, I suspect these ideas and concepts end up influencing my own work and I think this does shape my personal style.

Spiffy Tumbleweed
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Which characteristics of pinhole are most attractive to you and applicable to your work?
I like to take equipment out of the equation and approach my subject with minimalist tools, and I enjoy the process of making and using those tools. I like the ability to shape the time-space continuum. I can make time stand still in the middle of an exposure and alter my shot while I am in the process of making it. Depending on the materials and camera I have chosen, along with my mood at the time, I can choose to include or exclude people moving through my image. I can choose to be included in my image once, or multiple times, transparent or solid, or even with or without legs, with only a passing nod to reality. Ghosts, both intended and not, haunt my pinhole work to my great satisfaction. The practical infinite depth of field is also an attractive feature and directly applies to the subject matter I choose to shoot in pinhole.

Copyright © 2010 Spiffy Tumbleweed
Pedestrian Bridge II
This is another take on the pedestrian bridge over Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake) in Austin, Texas that I submitted for Brian Krummel's book, "The Pinhole Camera". This image is the direct out-of-camera negative shot on 16 x 20 inch photo paper in a home built black foam core camera.
Which new techniques would you like to experiment within the year?
I've just begun to explore some new oncology film and I hope to build a camera for it and see what it has to offer. I'd like to continue to explore infrared film in pinhole applications, long duration exposures on photo paper, and altering film planes for specific effects.
What creative tools and techniques do you use, such as any specific cameras, film, development, or printing processes?
Every aspect of pinhole photography offers creative tools to the artist, and I try to use them all. My choice of media; types of film, paper, Polaroid, etc. both influences and is influenced by the subject matter I'm shooting, and the results I'm trying to achieve. The nature, size, and relative speed of the media chosen all impact the image and offer a variety of tools and related techniques that can be employed. The cameras I choose offer another diverse array of powerful tools through their relative focal lengths, flat vs. curved film planes, the size of media used, and their physical characteristics that may influence subject matter and the ways I choose to shoot. I primarily shoot in black and white and develop my images in an old school wet darkroom, which offers another set of creative tools and techniques I can bring to my work.
Why is pinhole photography important to you?
I think the importance of pinhole work to me lies in its deliberate nature. When I shoot 16 x 20 photo paper in a home built camera, it basically takes me a day to make a single image. Pinhole photography is my most creative outlet in photography, and almost counter-intuitively, allows me the greatest creative control with only the most basic of tools.
 
Final Thoughts: I first encountered Spiffy while searching for artists to feature in my book. His ultra large format work is marvelous and I am fascinated by the dedication that is required to haul a 16x20 camera around and then work with such large paper negatives.

- BJK, June 2010.