I recently supported a project on Kickstarter called Videre. It consisted of the conception and creation of a pinhole camera for 120 film. It is made of cardboard and comes on two flat sheets. My job was to punch out the shapes and put the thing together. I have quite a few hours into the construction of the camera, but I finally got it finished and loaded with film. Yes, film. I have not yet taken any pictures with it, but it certainly made me think of what cameras once were and what they now are.
A pinhole camera is just what it says. It is a box in which film is loaded and the photograph is taken through a pinhole in the side of the box. They can also be made from oatmeal tubes or, really, any kind of light tight box. The first photograph was actually taken in a room with a hole in the wall. The whole room was the camera, so the pinhole camera is just a very small version of that. It uses film so you must get it developed (or do it yourself), scan a negative, and start to work with the image. Or just let it as is. The beauty of pinhole photography is that you can never be quite sure of what you are going to get. There is a sort of excitement that looking at the screen at the back of my digital camera can't quite match. The other thing, and perhaps more important, is that it makes me slow down. Each roll of film has a limited number of exposures. I can't try 30 different things on the same scene. I need to think it our carefully first. Then hope I got it right.
Working more slowly is something that is pretty foreign in the days of digital. Way back when, there was no choice but to work slowly. The exposures were very long and it was all guesswork before light meters. Exposures could be measured in minutes or even hours at times. S L O W It meant taking the time to decide what was really worth all the work of photographing it. Then getting it right.
Cameras now get it right for us. They expose the light really well. They focus automatically. They advance to the next shot with lightning speed. We change lenses, ISO, or exposure compensation any time we want. We don't have to wait until the next roll of film to change speeds. Cameras now are truly incredible and will get to be even more amazing. However, one thing has not changed from the pinhole camera to the most awesome digital camera. And that is that someone has to take the picture. You and I need to look and choose what is worth our time. We need to see what is around us so we know what to include in the photographic message we hope to convey. We need to see, think, and decide. That will never change.