Fermynwoods Associate Artist James Smith took the opportunity to celebrate World Pinhole Camera Day in inventive fashion, providing participants with an introduction to the technical workings of a pinhole camera, with the opportunity to make their own black and white versions, before finally making an experimental DIY analogue pinhole version of a 360° camera.
The day started with an enlightening presentation of James’ artistic practice showing examples of his early work and talking through the methodologies that he developed as a student at the Royal College of Art. These interests and methods have developed over many years and sustain his practice to the present day.
After a demonstration of how a pinhole camera functions using a large format camera, James revealed the life-sized camera obscura he had created by converting one of the bedrooms at Sudborough Green Lodge. As the group sat in the darkened room, images from the outside landscape slowly began to appear on the walls projected through the tiny pinhole in the blackout fabric covering the bedroom window.
Participants cameras were to be made from basic household materials, using takeaway boxes as a housing for both aperture and film. As the camera making commenced, participants grappled with the tiny apertures needed to create each camera. Several test exposures were needed due to the changeable light conditions on the day and there was much finessing of the manual tactics of opening and closing a DIY shutter.
After lunch things turned decidedly experimental following James’ innovative use of domestic artefacts to create a four-aperture design which would create a 360° surround black and white image. Here the many variables affecting the placing of each individual aperture and the objects before it created wildly varying, often magical results. A steady hand and a firm support for the camera were crucial to the success of the image, where over-exuberant opening of the shutters could result in the accidental over-exposure of the whole.
James Smith lives and works in both London and Northampton and studied MA Photography at the Royal College of Art 2010/12. James’s practice explores aesthetic and cultural definitions of geographic positioning within the English landscape.
Pinhole 360 was the fourth of our Outdoor Institute of Art: Wild Sharing workshops, where our unique location and communal approach brings like-minded people together for peer-to-peer learning, informal skill and knowledge sharing, providing both a creative and social opportunity.