Task 2 – Pinhole Photographs and ‘Non’ Spaces
We were given Task 2 on our second day back at university, after we had completed our Pinhole Printing Darkroom tutorial. As I do with all of my given briefs, I started off by reading through it and highlighting any key points. Below I have written these main points, as I was unable to copy and paste the PDF file.
“Using your pinhole cameras… Investigate photographically the personality of an open place/space when it is devoid of human presence.”
“… Test and learn how it [the pinhole camera] interprets the world.”
“… Help you to achieve the learning outcome of appropriate pre-visualization skills.”
“Reflect on the personality of the place/space you are representing… and how it is momentarily transformed when it is populated by certain individuals or groups of people and consider how you can document this ‘non’ space (Auge 95)”
“… Submit 2-4 final photographic prints…”
“… Spend time building on and improving your initial starting point.”
After finishing this, I knew that the next step should be researching into different photographers that either use pinhole photography or look at photographing ‘non’ spaces. Thankfully, when we were given this task, we were also supplied with a number of photographers that did just that. I now plan on looking at them briefly and analyzing the personality and atmosphere that the ‘non’ space elicits (point number four).
- Basketball Arena
- Emptiness of an image will always create an eerie atmosphere
- The lighting and colouration of this image, however, lessens the intensity of the eeriness and creates a more natural, sporty atmosphere
- Although there are no people photographed in this image, I personally use this emptiness as a way to let my imagination free; I look at this photo and can easily imagine a typical American basketball match, underway
- This photograph, to me, has almost the same amount of energy as it would if it included the basketball players and the roaring crowds
- Opera House
- Emptiness of an image will always create an eerie atmosphere
- However, once again, the lighting and the colouration distracts the viewer from this eeriness and, in this case, enhances the majestic atmosphere that is often found in opera houses
- It stimulates a powerful atmosphere that mimics that of an actual opera, which then enables the viewer to ‘feel’ as though they are there
- Troubled Land
- Within this collection, Paul Graham photographs poignant political points in a subtle way
- The emptiness within these photographs create an unnerving atmosphere which can be used to represent the atmosphere at the time of these religious divides
- The atmosphere that these images elicit portray the conflict that was found around this area and are used by the viewer to experience this hostility
- Hidden, 2002
- This photograph doesn’t really show the normal eerie atmosphere that is usually portrayed through photographs of ‘non’ spaces, but the context behind this image does indeed enable the photograph to elicit and uneasy feel
- This is a documentary image where Paul Seawright used large-format to photograph post-war (he was unable to lug the large format around during the war)
- If the viewer knows the context behind this image, this is what creates the stereotypical eeriness
- Settlement project
- This collection also appears to be photographed in a documentary fashion
- The settlement subject can clearly be seen as merging into the background which can be used to represent the fact that these families do not want to be seen
- This point is also, obviously, enhanced by the lack of human presence
- This overall feel that this photograph elicits is that of a voyeuristic one; the viewer feels as though they should not be viewing this, which also intrigues them even more
- Public Spaces, Public Stages
- This photograph is much like those of David Leventi
- The emptiness of this image creates an eerie atmosphere that, instead of being lessened by the lighting (much like those of David Leventi) is actually enhanced
- The subject twinned with the lighting can be used by the viewer to represent that it is the end of the show in which this stage has been used for
- To me, personally, I have always found empty stages to be that of a creepy nature, and this just enhances the overall spookiness of the image
After briefly researching these five photographs, I have decided that the ones that I am going to take most of my influence from are David Leventi and Tom Hunters. I feel that these two photographers have created the most powerful and dynamic images through encapsulating a room’s personality even when it has been devoid of human presence. I feel that their photographs are more about creating an emotion than the documentary feel that I receive when looking at the others.
As you have seen in one of my previous blog posts, I have actually managed to create an effective pinhole image that can also be used to show the emptiness of the city. (This is shown below.) I find this image to be very interesting in the fact that the emptiness, twinned with the soft focus, creates a mysterious eeriness that enhances the personality of the place.
Hallway Window – 2 minutes exposure
What I am going to do next is attempt to recapture this image after I have made some slight changes to my pinhole camera. I am going to decrease the size of the aperture in order to make my images focus of a better quality, and will then compare the two images to see if the type of focus has an effect on the personality of the ‘non’ space.
After I have compared these two images, I will then make any appropriate changes to my pinhole, before going out to shoot some more exposures. The first idea that I have had for a photo is an empty car park. I will experiment in creating this exposure before moving on to my other ideas.
(My other ideas include simple student areas that obviously have no human present, but as stated above, I am going to wait until these first two exposures have been completed before moving on.)
As I stated above, I planned on changing the diameter of the aperture so that it was a lot smaller in order to create sharper images. To do this, I used a piece of tin foil to cover the hole by using masking tape to keep it in place. I then used a small needle to create a tiny hole, before attempting to recapture the above image. Below you can see my second attempt of this exposure, with the smaller aperture:
Hallway Window – 1 minute 30 seconds, smaller aperture experiment
As you can see from the original and second attempt, the second exposure does indeed have a sharper focus. The only problem is, is that the light only exposed part of the light-sensitive photo paper. I think this is due to the fact that I used a relatively large piece of tin foil that bowed in the middle, trapping the light between the edge of the box and the tin foil.
What I plan to do next is try and update my pinhole camera once more, using a smaller piece of tin foil and securing it tightly with masking tape. This is because I feel that the sharper image is more effective in showing the lack of human presence, as it is more obvious to the viewer; they don’t need to strain to see if there is a human present in the haziness.
After updating my pinhole camera, yet again, I will recapture this exposure too see if it is at the quality that I want for my prints. This is when I will then, move my project onwards by shooting different areas.
Pinhole Update Number 2:
As you can see from the paper negatives and positives below, after my second pinhole update, I was still undergoing the same problem; it only exposed some of the light-sensitive photo paper.
Hallway Window 2 – 3 minute exposure, smaller aperture experiment
Hallway Window 2 – 20 seconds
Hallway Window 2 – 10 seconds
Hallway Window 2 – 5 seconds
Final Hallway Window 2 – 5 seconds
After deliberating with my course peers, we decided that it was because my aperture was too deep.
To update my pinhole camera for a second time, they suggested that I create a larger hole and then cover it with tin foil in which I will pierce a small aperture using a needle. This will therefore make the aperture a lot shallower and will hopefully solve the problem.
Again, after updating my pinhole camera I will recapture this exposure too see if it is at the quality that I want for my prints. This is when I will then move my project onwards by shooting different areas.
Final Pinhole Update:
As you can see from my prints below, my last pinhole update actually worked! I created a much larger hole in my box then tapped black card over it before piercing it with a very small needle. I still made sure that the box was completely light proof and, as you can see from my paper negative, the smaller hole made the image a lot sharper.
Hallway Window 3 – 4 minute exposure (slightly overexposed)
Hallway Window 3 – 10 seconds
Hallway Window 3 – 15 seconds
Hallway Window 3 – 20 seconds
Final Hallway Window 2 – 20 seconds
Now that my pinhole camera is finally at a high quality, I can begin to take the two images that I have pre-visualized. The first is an empty car park, and the second is an empty student area. I will take these two exposures, estimating how long I should leave the exposure time, before printing and probably re-shooting them. Depending on how these paper negatives turn out, I may be inspired to shoot another area, but I will record my progress as I go.
First attempt of taking some exposures:
As you can see from the negatives below, my first attempt of taking exposures wasn’t a success. Each of my exposures were hugely underexposed and therefore need to be re-shot. After talking to second year mentor, Alex, I found out that anywhere that has tungsten light would usually need an exposure time of at least an hour as the light-sensitive photo paper responds to UV rather than actual light. I also found out that shaded, outdoor areas would usually need about 10 minutes.
Car Park – 30 second exposure (Try 15 minutes)
Hub – 6 minutes 30 seconds exposure (Try 1 hour)
Lounge – 8 minutes 30 seconds exposure (Try 1 hour)
When taking these exposures, however, I did come up with a theme that I am going to attempt to capture throughout my final prints. This theme is Student Areas. I thought that it would be interesting to capture usually busy student areas without any form of human presence and to briefly analyze them with their changed personality and atmosphere.
This is why I am now going to take my newly learnt knowledge to capture a variety of different areas:
- The Hub (outside)
- The Hub (inside)
- Car Park
- Student Accommodation Bedroom
- Student Accommodation Lounge
Second Attempt at taking some exposures:
Outside The Hub – 3 minutes exposure (cloudy) – watermarks have occurred
Outside The Hub – 2 minutes exposure (sunny)
Final Attempt of Pinhole Photography:
As you can see from my paper negatives and positives below, my third attempt at taking pinhole exposures was a success.
Outside the Hub:
Outside The Hub – 2 minutes exposure (sunny)
Outside The Hub – 12 seconds
Outside The Hub – 15 seconds
Outside The Hub – 20 seconds
Outside The Hub – 25 seconds
Final Outside The Hub – 20 seconds
Inside the Hub:
Inside the Hub – 1 hour exposure
Inside the Hub – 15 seconds
Inside the Hub – 17 seconds
Inside the Hub – 18.5 seconds
Inside the Hub – 20 seconds
Final Inside the Hub – 17 seconds
Car Park – 15 minute exposure (in the shade)
Car Park – 12 seconds
Car Park – 17 seconds
Final Car Park – 12 seconds
Student Accommodation Bedroom:
Bedroom – 1 hour exposure
Bedroom – 10 seconds
Bedroom – 12 seconds
Final Bedroom – 10 seconds
Student Accommodation Lounge:
Lounge – 1 hour exposure
Lounge – 5 seconds
Lounge – 10 seconds
Final Lounge – 5 seconds
I feel that some of these second attempts are so successful and dynamic that I am actually going to use these as my four final prints for this task. Below I will specify which of these are my final prints, followed by why they are more effective than the others, and how the personality of the space has changed due to the lack of human presence.
Final Print Analysis (Collection Title – The Absence of Students):
I personally feel that these four prints are my most successful prints for a variety of different reasons. Obviously, one of the main aspects that make them effective is the fact that they are all correctly exposed and have been developed to show an interesting contrast. They have also all stuck to the given brief, according to the main points that I stated above. I also feel my final theme that I decided to experiment with (Student Areas) adds to the success of these images as it is this concept that creates the variety of atmospheres that are portrayed in each of these paper positives. (Ideally I would present these images in a horizontal manner in order to symbolize the timeline sequence, but for reasons that I am unsure of, I cannot set this out using my Blog settings.)
This exposure is one of the high contrast exposures and it is the image that starts off the four-photograph narrative. The high contrast of this image can be used to represent the student awakening at the beginning of the day where they find everything quite bright after being in a deep sleep. (The viewer does not know, at this stage, that this is the beginning of a linear narrative about a student, but a variety of enigma codes throughout this collection enables them to grasp this concept.) The perspective of this image, looking down on the city, can be used by the viewer to symbolize dominance and can show the viewer that it is the perspective of this dominant character that they are going to follow through the rest of the narrative. The focal point of this image is the tip of the top of the building, situated to the left of the middle-centre third. The majority of viewers then follow the edge of the building downwards until they meet the roads, where they then follow the curve of the road up into the distance. Some of the viewers then continue to take in the white negative space before making their way back to the focal point. The white negative space can have many connotations simply due to the colour of it. However, this specific negative space, linked with the overall theme of the collection, can be used to symbolize a successful beginning and the safety of the student as they travel into the student world. The emptiness within an image often suggests an eerie atmosphere, which in turn puts the viewer on edge. However, the connotations of the white negative space change that into a more uplifting feeling that can in turn be used to represent the independence of the student. The personality of this large open space therefore changes from a usually busy and rushed atmosphere to a calming and enriching area.
This second exposure can be linked to the previous image through the overall subject matter, which can be used by the viewer to suggest that these images are a part of the same collection. The fact that this image is that of a car park, and the previous image included a road into the distance, proposes to the viewer that this student character travelled some distance to get to the destination of this second photo. (The viewer still does not see that the initial character or point-of-view is that of a student, and doesn’t realize until the end of this series of photographs.) This image has a different contrast from the previous photo, and its lowness can be used by the viewer to suggest the dreary mind-set that the student has got themselves into before the university day. The focal point of this image is the darkest area found in the right-middle third as the viewer is drawn to this through the use of perspective planes and diagonal lines. The small amount of white segments that can be found throughout this image can be used by the viewer to suggest the student’s hope for the rest of the day. The viewer see’s this light as a clue to propose the rest of the narrative may not be as gloomy as this image infers and can be used by the viewer to create a pessimistic personality of this students character. As stated before, the emptiness of an area usually creates an eerie sense, which, in this case, is enhanced by the darkness of the image. There is also a creepy feeling that is elicited through this image by the mystery that surrounds the dark area. The emptiness also suggests an early beginning for the student character, which can in turn be used to represent dedication. The personality of this usually busy area has therefore dramatically changed through the devoid of human presence. The normally stressful atmosphere of a full car park has been converted into that of a creepy and lonesome feeling that can be seen as a social punishment for an early riser.
Outside the Hub:
The third exposure in this small collection can easily be linked to the previous image through the use of the directional diagonal lines and the similar compositional elements. This photo is another high contrast image which, when viewed after the previous photo, can be seen as a representation of a glimmer of hope for the day ahead. The whiteness of the building that is enhanced by this contrast can also be used by the viewer to symbolize an area of success. It can also be used to represent an area of protection and safety compared to the previous image. It appears to be some form of safe haven. The diagonal lines within this photograph, twinned with the bright contrast, can be seen by the viewer to represent a form of energy and suggests that this building is full of energy through the number of students that are inside. The focal point of this image is the light part of the handrail found in the bottom-centre third. The viewer is then lead away from this focal point, into the distance, through the use of the diagonals and perspective plane. This movement in which the viewers eyes undergo, can be used by the viewer to suggest the students journey into the building and can therefore be used as a clue to the subject of the next image. The overall atmosphere of this image is another non-eerie one, with the feeling being more similar to the first photograph; uplifting. The fact that the first and third photograph show a similar contrast and atmosphere enables the viewer to see the relatable characteristic and pick up a greater understanding as to why they are in the same collection. The change in personality of the overall place is, therefore, very similar to that of the first photograph. It changes from a usually busy atmosphere to a more calm yet powerful area.
Inside the Hub:
The fourth and final exposure in this collection links to the previous photo through the mirrored effect created through the diagonal lines. The low contrast of this image also relates to the second image in the sequence, which can, again, be seen by the viewer as a related aspect showing why they are in the same collection. The contrast in the light to dark through this photo and the previous can be used as an indication by the viewer of a long period of time being spent, by the student character, in this building. The focal point of this image also relates to the previous high contrast image, as it is the white negative space in the centre of the image that is one of the only aspect that creates contrast within this photo. This focal point can also be seen by the viewer as a relatable characteristic between the two photos as they can imagine that the white window within this photo is a doorway to the view captured in the previous image. The busy imagination that the viewer undergoes whilst analyzing this image can be influenced by the overall busy photograph that they are looking at. The business of this image suggests that this now empty space had a once busy atmosphere. The personality of this ‘non-space’ has now, obviously, changed. This change is another factor that links it to the second photograph within the series. The now eerie atmosphere that has been created can be used as a symbol to represent the lateness in which the student stayed to complete work. This idea automatically enables the viewer to relate this imaginary student to a dedicated individual, which, on its own, decreases the threatening feel of this empty space.
Finally, as you have seen through my analytical work, I have spent time on the sequencing of these exposures, as a photographer should always do. As I have learnt in previous sequencing lectures, the sequence of a set of images is an important characteristic that is used to create the narrative within the collection. Although there are only four images to this collection, the sequence of them is what helps the viewer to determine the theme. As the viewer should have guessed (towards the end of the collection), I sequenced them in a linear format showing a chronological order of a typical students morning. The way that these have been arranged also shows the varying contrast with every other photo having been developed with a similar contrast. These varying contrasts, as you have seen, also, usually, differ the atmosphere portrayed through these images. The viewer therefore appears to be on an emotional rollercoaster when viewing these images that in turn gives the whole collection a more energetic feel even though the images are devoid of human presence.