An interview with Lucy Gregory, Second Year Fine Artist:
What are you currently working on?
I have been experimenting with pinhole photography. The simple process uses a dark container with a pin-sized hole in the side, allowing an inverted (upside down) image of the outside to be projected onto light sensitive paper stuck on the back wall. This is later taken out of the camera in the darkroom and developed using chemicals to reveal the image- a 1:1 scale ratio of the projection, exactly how it falls onto the paper, is recorded. There are several darkrooms around Oxford but I decided to make my own in a college bathroom!
I have spent time wandering round Oxford with a shoebox covered in tin foil converted into a camera, looking for the perfect scenario or composition. Each image is precious and time consuming as you only have one shot before returning to the darkroom and reloading the camera for taking the next picture – a stark contrast to the unlimited and instant images taken on a phone or digital camera.
I am preoccupied with the idea of a compression of time from the moment the shutter is opened to the final image. I feel, the pinhole photographer has a very exclusive ‘I experience’ during the long exposures of up to a few hours The chemical matrix of paper is slow and sucks up any natural light – encounters, meetings and occurrences play out in front of the pinhole. The final image shows a strange empty world, like the still of a film that has been playing, that only the photographer can recall or has witnessed. Everyone is rushing, constantly moving, so only occasional ghostly figures can be made out in the final image. There are substantial chance effects that articulate this method- no viewfinder, estimated exposure times, and the unpredictable movement of bodies in a space. I have also pushed this idea further and am currently working on filming the inside of a pinhole camera using digital technology as the image is being immortalised on the photographic paper.
What inspired this?
Pinhole photography is a rudimentary process- truthful and un-tampered, involving no actual camera with man made mechanisms: merely a dark space with a pinhole to let in light. One of the first images of a human being ever recorded in history was Louis Daguerre’s “Boulevard du Temple”, Paris1838- a busy street, but due to the ten minute exposure time the moving traffic does not appear. The only figures slow enough to be recorded were a man having his boots polished, and the bootblack polishing them, staying motionless enough for their presence to be captured photographically. I am inspired by contemporary artists such as Steven Pippin who turned mundane objects or architecture such as public toilets, photo booths, bath tubs, washing machines, gallery spaces into pinhole cameras. In addition Lindsay Seers used her body as a camera- she would drape her head and upper body in a in a black sack which acted as a mobile darkroom, insert a small piece of photographic paper into her mouth and the pull the sack off. Her lips were the shutter and aperture to “let the image in.”
Photo Credit: Lucy Gregory