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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.

August 8th, 2010 : Steve Gosling
Steve Gosling; North Yorkshire, England; Professional Photographer

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've been practicing pinhole photography for around 6 years now.

It all started as a bit of fun, an experimentation to see what I could do with a pinhole camera in the landscape - it wasn't driven by any commercial considerations; it was motivated by my interest in exploring different creative approaches to photography as way of keeping my vision fresh and as a way of challenging myself to try out new things (techniques, equipment, subjects etc).


Steve Gosling
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I was initially prompted into action by a review of the Zero Image pinhole camera in a magazine, liked what I read and this encouraged me to visit the company's website - www.zeroimage.com. These beautiful, hand made, teak & brass cameras looked like works of art in themselves and I was inspired by the images in the gallery section on their site. I began to wonder what potential these cameras offered for landscape photography. So I bought one and I've not looked back since - I've had several exhibitions all over the UK, numerous magazine articles published, a number of photo library sales and most recently a book ('Lensless Landscapes' ISBN 978-0-9560175-0-5) have been the result.

Once I got started I was hooked. I've used my pinhole cameras to take landscape photographs all over the UK - both coastal and inland scenes. But I am very attracted to locations where I can contrast static elements with movement of foliage, clouds or water in the photograph. For this reason I'm frequently drawn to places where there are large skies and expanses of water.

Influences:
Over the years my landscape photography has been influenced, motivated and encouraged by a variety of sources. I've been inspired by Charlie Waite (he broke the mould of traditional landscape photography back in the 80s); Shinzo Maeda (his Japanese landscapes contain so much beauty in their simplicity); Michael Kenna & Josef Hoflehner (for their black & white minimalist landscapes) and Joe Cornish whose work shows a fantastic understanding and use of light (and he's also a good friend and mentor).

However I also get inspiration from photographers working in other areas e.g. Elliott Erwitt (for his humour and keen observational eye) and Keith Carter (for his ability to communicate ideas and emotions via his photographs).

I believe that creativity doesn't come solely (or even mainly) from within. We don't really start with a blank canvas - our photographs come from a synthesis of ideas, thoughts, emotional & visual responses etc to outside stimuli. So I'm always drawing my inspiration from a variety of sources - other photographers, artists, music, novels as well as life experiences.

Which characteristics of pinhole are most attractive to you and applicable to your work?
We live in a photographic world of increasing certainty - digital cameras help us check our composition and exposure before we leave the scene. But I must admit I quite miss the adrenalin rush that uncertainty brings.

Pinhole photography panders to this strong masochistic streak in my personality and offers a complete contrast to my digital work - with not an LCD or exposure mode in sight it's back to basics with a vengeance. It's the minimalism of the equipment that appeals to me - I enjoy the challenges that it presents.

But pinhole vs 'normal' photography isn't a straight either/or choice. My 6 years experience with pinhole photography has influenced how I see and work more generally. One of my most used 'normal' camera/lens combinations is a Hasselblad SWC903 which has an extreme (for the format) wide angle lens (38mm on 2 1/4 square film) - it's a mechanical, no frills camera that continues the simplicity of my pinhole equipment. When it's fitted with ND filters to necessitate slow shutter speeds the results are very pinhole like (although much sharper of course!).

Pinhole photography is very akin to the unhurried, methodical almost meditational approach to Large Format photography. It forces you to slow down and think much more about the subject and I've found this really suits my style of working.

I also enjoy the wide angle of view coupled with an aperture of f138 which give tremendous depth of field. Not only do foreground objects loom large whilst distant elements appear significantly diminished in size, but objects a few inches from the camera all the way to infinity are held in focus. I consciously try to exploit these characteristics when composing my pictures.

Obviously an aperture of f138 results in long exposures (my longest to date has been 40 minutes) and so any movement in the frame becomes blurred. But I've given up worrying about that and instead take great pleasure in the unplanned effects that can sometimes result. People become ghost like objects and clouds transform into weird shapes unseen by the eye at the time of taking the shot. It all adds to the surreal experience in my view.

Copyright © 2010 steve gosling
Time & Motion
Taken at Durdle Door in Dorset this image captures all that I love about pinhole photography - the wide angle view, the effect of the slow shutter speed revealing the movement of the clouds and the energy of the water.
Which new techniques would you like to experiment within the year?
I've been working with various adaptors to enable me to use my digital cameras for pinhole photography. I'd like to continue with this to see if I can combine old and new technologies and at the same time retain the magic of analogue pinhole photography. I've recently bought a digital rangefinder camera and some body cap adaptors and am itching to use them for some serious pinhole work.

So far my pinhole photography has all been with the camera firmly attached to a tripod. But I'm interested in experimenting with handheld long exposures probably in the urban landscape to create more impressionistic results.

Another plan is to do more pinhole photography outside of the UK. For example I'm planning to run a 3 day pinhole photography workshop in Venice, Italy next year.
What creative tools and techniques do you use, such as any specific cameras, film, development, or printing processes?

My main cameras for pinhole photography are Zero 2000 models from Zero Image (I've got 2 pinhole and 1 zone plate camera). I use Ilford B&W film (either Pan F 50 ISO or Delta 400) and get them processed & contact printed. I then select the negatives I want to work on, scan them using a Nikon Coolscan 9000 and process them for printing in Photoshop CS4. But I limit the processing to replicating what I would have previously done in a traditional darkroom - adjusting contrast, selective dodging/burning, toning etc.

All of my fine art prints are produced on archival quality matte papers - usually Permajet Museum Classic.

Why is pinhole photography important to you?

Pinhole photography has challenged my notion of what constitutes a worthwhile subject for my camera. It's taught me to look at and find visual attraction in locations I would have previously ignored. The result is that I continue to see the world with a renewed vision and a refreshed creativity that has literally expanded my horizons as a photographer.

Most importantly my experiences with a pinhole camera have confirmed to me that communicating mood & emotion are my prime motivators for making landscape photographs. I've never been overly concerned with technical perfection or producing an accurate pictorial record of a location. For me the heart of landscape photography is to capture and communicate what I'm feeling, as much (if not more) than what I see at the time of releasing the shutter. And my work with a pinhole camera has enabled me to achieve this goal more consistently than ever before.