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Archive for the ‘Pinhole Photography’ Category

lutter.jpgArtkrush decorated their last newsletter with German photographer Vera Lutter‘s camera obscura image of San Marco. The picture has all the inverted elegance of a film negative with its shadows that gleam and bright sunlight that turns black. But Lutter’s images are about more than just light and dark. Standard photographs are instantaneous; Lutter‘s are taken over days, even months, which introduces time and space as new elements.

There are no passersby in Lutter’s photos, just buildings, ghost towns. Architecture and landscape persist, sit long and hard, burn shadows, while people pass through without a trace—although she admits in a great interview with BOMB Magazine that a tenacious sunbather made an imprint in one of her shorter exposures.

Lutter’s prints are large, often wall size.  One of her cameras was actually a shipping container. She talks about sitting in the camera at one point, watching the image projected on the wall: “The fast movements don’t stay in the photograph, but I see the cars driving through the image, I see trains, boats going by, birds and airplanes flying through. It’s like watching a film, but the image is reversed, upside down, and very crisp.” In some ways, her images resemble the theater photographs of Sugimoto where an entire movie over the period of a few hours leaves nothing but a glowing white screen.

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belger.jpgI was rummaging through some papers and came across a flyer for an exhibit I saw a while back at Varnish Gallery. The show was called “A Collection of Souls from the Borderland” and it showcased Wayne Belger‘s pinhole cameras and the photos he takes with them.

Belger, an LA-based artist trained originally as a machinist, discovered pinhole cameras when a photographer friend asked him to build one for a project he was doing. Since then Belger has created his own series of bizarrely ornate pinhole machines forged from aircraft grade aluminum that stand as pieces of sculpture in their own right. The structure and story of each camera is tightly interwoven with the pictures it takes. On his website, Belger says: “All the cameras I have built have been the work horses for the photos I have taken.” In fact, the two can’t be separated.

The camera in this photo is called the HIV camera. Two valves, one on each side pump HIV-positive blood back and forth between two plates of glass that sit in front of the pinhole. The blood acts as a red-color filter. With this camera Belger photographs people living with AIDS and HIV. Crafting another camera from the 150-year-old skull of a teenage girl, Belger decorates the camera with jewels and composes dreamy photos of roadside shrines and children’s playgrounds that speak to a life cut short. The heart camera enshrines an infant heart in a shiny metal box and produces images of women in the late stages of pregnancy.

Another pinhole book worth checking out is Jo Babcock’s “The Invented Camera” that I originally discovered at Printed Matter in New York. Babcock is a San Francisco-based artist who’s made pinholes from old beat-up things: cigar boxes, maple syrup cans, mailboxes, coffee urns, typewriter cases, packages of Brillo, even old VW buses and Airstream trailers. You name it, if it’s been thrown out Babcock can whip it into a picture-taking apparatus. The book is laid out with an image of the camera on the left leaf and the picture taken by the camera on the right; the two work together to make clever, wry combinations. Battered and bruised Samsonite suitcases give birth to images of crumbling YMCAs, Greyhound stations and neon-lit motels. An old metal movie projector case produces a shot of the glowing red neon sign of San Francisco’s venerable Roxie theatre. A self-portrait of the artist with bandage emerges from a metal Band-Aid box. A package of Tide paints a moody scene in a laundromat. And my favorite—a weathered index card tray long past its prime seizes an image of an equally outdated heaping mound of discarded books.

Both Babcock and Belger wrap their cameras and the images they create into a fascinating embrace.

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