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October 30th, 2009 : Hugh O. Smith
Hello! We are freelance photographers (my wife Diana and myself). I am also a hematologist. We live in Oceanside, Ca. just north of San Diego.

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 started with pinholes in the 70's but never got really serious until a few years ago. I try to make as perfect an image as I can while maintaining the character of the pinhole's unique impressions. I lucked upon Chris Keeney's site and Zero Images. My first pinhole camera was a Holga and I graduated to the Zero 2000 (my favorite) a year or more ago.

Hugh O. Smith
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In the 80's I went nuts with the Polaroid Transfer process. I loved it and was just getting back to it when Polaroid went "TU." Heck, it was costing too much anyway. I guess my "problem" is that I just like the images to be as clean and unchanged as possible. I love what you do with paper negatives, but I just shoot "straight." I guess the pinhole community is so large I really can't say any one person influenced me because most of these guys are pretty talented.
Which characteristics of pinhole are most attractive to you and applicable to your work?
I like not quite knowing exactly what the image will look like in the end. Not having a viewfinder is also an advantage because I have to look and analyze each subject first. Second, one had better like movement because the long exposures are really artsy. While you can do it with digital, it's inherent in pinholes. So I find myself looking for motion...waves, clouds, leaves, branches, etc. Finally, the image on the film is pretty much "it." You can't delete the file.

Copyright © 2009 Hugh O. Smith
Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego
I love this place. It was built in 1915 at a cost of $300,000 and the Moorish influence is just as elegant today as it must have been back then. The exposure was 30 "alligators" and the camera was on an old radiator by the front door.
Which new techniques would you like to experiment within the year?
Ah. Now you got me. I am trying to "mainstream" the images from pinholes. I want to shoot some commercial stuff like fashion and nudes with my pins. We are already experimenting with it. So for technique, it's shooting with some studio strobes (like 10 flashes per exposure)...My regret is that there is no Polaroid to do transfers with. Fuji won't work very well.
What creative tools and techniques do you use, such as any specific cameras, film, development, or printing processes?
Well, my favorite cameras are the Zero 2000 6x6 and the 4x5 with two extensions. My favorite film is Fuji Superia because it's reciprocity is almost non-existent, it is very forgiving in exposure and fine grain enough for pretty large scans. I usually print 11x11 on Harman semi gloss paper with an Epson 2400. I am pretty much a PhotoShop guy. I scan the negs and pretty much stay with the original image. I will convert to B&W or sepia when called for, but that's pretty much it.
Why is pinhole photography important to you?
Hmmmmm. That's a difficult question. I think photographers for the most part, are experimenters and we also like to go back to our "roots." I still think of Timothy O'Sullivan when I shoot landscapes and what those guys put up with...long exposures, traveling darkrooms, mercury vapors, etc.

For me, it is probably nostalgia. I would go back to bromoils if I had the patience (which I don't anymore.) But, the process of getting an image is so much more "visualization" than digital. Hell, you can shoot 50 or 100 shots with digital from every conceivable angle and just delete the bad ones. At least with pinholes, you get what you get.
Final Thoughts: I found Hugh's work on when he posted images to our group pool. I admire the simplicity of his images and selected tools. In discussing pinhole photography with Hugh, I find a man who is truly interested in experimenting with the boundaries of pinhole and I look forward to his next set of creative images. Learn more about his work at,, and

- BJK, October 2009.

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