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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.

July 16th, 2010 : Ken Ku
Ken Ku lives in Vancouver, British Columbia and is a graduate of San Francisco Art Institute. He works primarily with pinhole cameras but also uses other plastic and vintage cameras.
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 my alternative processes class at San Francisco Art Institute. I was caught between whether or not to stay with film or move completely digital. I was dedicated to the evolution of photography and the instantaneousness of digital pleased me immensely. However, over time I felt that something was missing in my practice and began to deconstruct it down to the most basic to find that technology was not the answer. It was then I turned towards the more primitive forms of photography.

Ken Ku
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What I was missing was a feeling of softness, not just a bunch of ones and zeros representing the light that was captured on the sensor. I wanted to capture a moment on film, a moment that represents infinite possibilities. Of what could be. Not, what is. The pinhole allowed me to see these possibilities by opening up a world that was otherwise blinded by programming.

My biggest source of inspiration comes from a classmate from college and best friend, Jennifer Lebel. We have printed countless hours in the darkroom together, listened to each other's frustrations, and shared endless adventures. It was because of Jen's enthusiasm for film and alternative processes that shaped how I photograph today.

Which characteristics of pinhole are most attractive to you and applicable to your work?
What I like most about pinhole photography is the amount of time it takes to expose an image. While I use my pinhole cameras to take all sorts of photos, I like it the best with self-portraits. You never really know exactly what you will look like, if there is motion blur (which there usually will be), or if you will even show up in the image. It is still all captured on film and each second that is captured represents a possibility. This is something that I find incredibly interesting. I also use the pinhole camera to take landscape photos and some have commented that it also gives it a 'dreamlike' quality, which I also love as well. It definitely wasn't something I have been able to replicate digitally, probably because I haven't spent the time nor do I have the will.

Copyright © 2010 ken ku
Lions Gate Bridge
Kodak E100G Taken with the Daylab 4x5 Pinhole in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC.
Which new techniques would you like to experiment within the year?
One new technique that I am most curious about is Caffenol-C. This particular development just fascinates me for some reason. I understand the chemistry of it, but I still would love to see the actual results of some that I developed myself. Photographically, I would like to try to do some solargraphy. Those are just some of the most beautiful images and definitely a way to practice my patience on long exposures!
What creative tools and techniques do you use, such as any specific cameras, film, development, or printing processes?

The pinhole that I most often use is my Daylab 4x5 because I just adore the format. I do also shoot with the Holga 120PC and 120WPC. Both have yielded excellent results. My film is all regrettably developed at a lab. It is easier to do that than to try to dispose of used chemicals here in Canada. Printing often depends on what I am working on and varies. Typically I will scan the negatives, adjust the exposure, color balance, and print on a LightJet machine. Other times I might make digital negatives and contact Van Dyke prints.

I am partial to Kodak so I use all Kodak films and papers when I can. I really love Ektachrome EPP for the softness and fine grain. Unfortunately this film has been discontinued so it is increasingly harder to find. Good thing I have a stock of it in my film fridge. Other Kodak films I use are: E100G, E100VS, Portra 160VC, Portra 400VC, TMax 400, and Tri-X 320.

Why is pinhole photography important to you?
Pinhole photography is a way for me to spend time on my photos and practice patience when taking a photograph. It allows me to see the possibilities that exist in life and to not take the moment for granted.