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Peek Into The Past With Pinhole Images

By Derric | Effects Showcase

The one thing photographs do extraordinarily well is paint an emotionally charged memory that you might have forgotten the vast majority of the specific details of, and when the emotions come flooding back, the memory becomes clearer and clearer. Whenever I see images from pinhole cameras, usually from the early 20th century, it feels like I'm taking a glimpse into the past, to a time forgotten, to time where things were less complex and therefore (perhaps) more poignant and precious.

When my niece Azora was 4, she traveled to Cleveland for Christmas, and it was the first time that she ever saw, felt and played in the snow. I was lucky enough to have my camera at the ready when she stepped out of the car and jumped into the "white stuff" -what a precious memory. For her 10th birthday, I'm putting together a photo triptych so Azora has fond memories of that time. These photos, which make up the triptych, are of Azora's first snowball fight with my Mom. As these are a trip back in time, the concept exploring these images with the pinhole camera's ethereal quality immediately appealed to me.

The first photo is of Azora cocking back her arm to throw her first snowball - ever!

Azora cocking back her arm to throw her first snowball - ever!

By altering it with the pinhole camera aesthetic, one immediately feels the energy and excitement from the blur and slight distortion.

The second photo is of Azora during the follow-threw of her first snowball.

Azora during the follow-threw of her first snowball

By applying Pinhole 2, I was able to amp up the kinetic energy that's bursting from the seams in this photo.

Original B&W photo

The final photo is a quick close-up that I had trouble getting, because my niece at this point in her life had been photographed quite a bit and wasn't planning on "posing" for a snapshot (whereas the other photos she didn't seem to mind because she was having too much fun).

The original was wildly overexposed, so I had to adjust the Curves and Levels in Photoshop to get the "raw" photo that you see here. For some reason I think I was using this Agfa B&W slide film to get these shots (now that I'm recalling that day), but maybe I was using Tri-X; anyway there's a substantial amount of grain in this photo. Which makes it look like an older photo anyway.

To continue with my nostalgic theme, I was hoping the Pinhole Effect would exaggerate some the already less-sharp edges... thankfully it did.


In setting up the triptych, I placed this image last, because it captures my niece's face but not entirely. You can tell that she's having fun, but it's that dream-y remembrance of fun that gives this type of memory deeper meaning. The lack of specific details adds to the emotion of the image.

Triptychs are a favorite display technique of mine, as you can tell a more emotionally-driven story... a story of 3,000 words to be exact (give or take). I'm hoping to use a 7-ink Epson printer to output these images, so I can embraces all the black ranges available with modern printing techniques -- something that wasn't available when pinhole cameras were more than just a fad or a odd-ball niche.

I'll have to report back on what my niece's reaction was to the photos.

Until next time...

Photo Editing, Simplified.

Photo Editing. Simplified