Why Pinhole

Why Pinhole? Why Indeed!

I get asked this a lot. In addition, the answers are not as simple as the actual pursuit of making pinhole images. I got into making pinhole images and cameras after having quit trying to make it as a commercial photographer. Darwin was right about evolution. And some people have the wrong temperament to be commercial photographers and/or illustrators…I was one of the unsuitable sorts…never threatened a client with an open can of dog food…not a good idea, tempting as it may have been.

I bailed from doing jam labels and concentrated on doing what I liked doing most, historical and alternative photographic processes. A change is as good as a rest. Pinhole photography was a direct result of my getting away from using conventional materials for their intended purposes. I used resin coated black and white paper as negatives in large (20×24″) pinhole cameras. I used litho film to make enlarged negatives and positives…I broke every ‘rule’ I could think of and had a blast…

then I decided I was having too much fun to keep it all to myself. I began to teach workshops and in high schools as a visiting teacher…still more fun…I cut back on my teaching to work full time at a large multimedia company and found I missed it terribly…the teaching that is. Then I put up the first pinhole site…and the fun started all over again…

Pinhole is photography at its most basic. I love the freedom it affords any and all who take it up. As a means of expression, it frees us from the bonds of the camera salesmen and the companies who seek to create ever fancier cameras that take the intuition out of making photographs.

In a nutshell, that’s why I like pinhole photography.

Question is, what do you think?

An open letter to all pinhole photographers

I received this email from Ivica Kiš and rather than placing it in his biography, I thought it would be better to place it here on the home page in the hope that as many people as possible read it.

I sincerely hope you find this open letter as interesting a statement of purpose I do.


Dear Pinholers,

Really why pinhole camera?

After centuries of development of various sophisticated cameras, what is the use of pinhole camera? The pinhole camera (Engl.), Lochkamera (Germ.) or camera obscura (Ital.) is a rural tool for the basic (central) projection (to an image) of any motive (interesting to the human eye). First described in 7-th century b.c. in China, improved and developed in 16-th century in a useful tool of painters, astronomers, and gunners, “camera obscura” was established as the mother of all kind of (photographic, movie, television, video) cameras.

All kind of cameras were developed for their specific purpose, and by the time pinhole camera was more and more ignored and main qualities of the pinhole camera were forgotten but there are (as far as I know) 8 irreplaceable qualities of the pinhole camera.

1. Continuous depth sharpness of the projection for all distances (for any motive in front of the pinhole, as well as for the “film” inside the camera).

2. Compression of time (takes of long-time processes with a single long-lasting shot to one image).

3. Very wide (undisturbed) angle of takes, on a plane as well as on cylindrical or spherical “films”.

4. Exact (undisturbed) prospective projection (on the projection plane, cylinder or sphere).

5. Total throughput for all intensities and frequencies of electromagnetic radiations (for human eyes visible and not visible areas of the light spectrum).

With my surveys of the pinhole camera in past years, I found another 3 not replaceable characteristics of pinhole cameras which should be also mentioned.

6. Unlimited size of takes (negatives) out of standard film range 16 mm, 34 mm (Leica) or 60 mm films. That provides huge analogical resolution to pinhole taken images.

7. Tremendously precise (linear) exposition (processed dozes of light), especially for extremely illuminated motives (nuclear blasts on stars).

8. Possibility of using expired films (because of tremendously precise exposition).

With sincerely regards,

Ivica Kiš