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Pinhole Photography Workshop

David Krut Projects Cape Town (DKCT) – Education

Facilitator: St.John Fuller

St.John Fuller preparing tins for the pinhole photography workshop at #DKCT
Planning & Preparing

On Saturday 4 February 2017 St.John Fuller co-ordinated and ran an intensive pinhole photographic workshop for 8 high school learners from Rustenberg Girls High School, Herschel and Westerford High School. The Rustenberg students are specialising in the photographic medium with their art teacher, Ms Nicky Cooper whilst the two Westerford students attended through their interest in physics and optics.

Students listening to Fuller at the introductory session of the workshop

The workshop started with a meet-and-greet inside the DKCT project space. Following this Fuller went through the specifics and details of pinhole photography, its relations to analogue. In the introduction Fuller emphasised that ‘photography as a means of expression is not limited to the tools that you find most readily available’ and ‘if you look beyond what is at hand, you will be able to play with light in ways that you might not have thought possible’. Effectively, pinhole photography is about the interplay of light and shadows, with the human touch weaving the necessary magic to create an iconic resolution.

Fuller went on to describe how to make a pinhole camera which included sourcing a suitable container. For this workshop the students were supplied with biscuit tins. Using a very fine jewellery bit, holes had been drilled into the sides of the tins. This created the pinhole lens. For a shutter black insulation tape was used. Particularities of the interior of the camera were also discussed with emphasis been placed on the importance of the container being light tight. If any light were to bleed into the camera, the exposure will be affected resulting in the ‘fogging’ of the light sensitive material within.

Having described the process of making a pinhole camera the students were then instructed on the loading of their cameras. This took place in the specially prepared temporary dark room that Fuller had set up with the assistance of the DKCT staff.

With cameras loaded with light sensitive paper the students went out and took photographs. On returning to the dark room they were shown how to process their images. This followed a four step process of first developing, then stopping, then fixing before finally washing. For this there were four trays set. Tray #1 had the developer in and required the students to place their exposed light sensitive paper into the solution, agitating it for a minute before taking it out and placing said paper directly into tray #2. This contained the stop solution which helps to neutralise the developer before the paper is put into the fix. After agitating for a minute the paper was taken from tray#2 and put into tray #3. This contained the fix. Two minutes of agitation within the solution and the paper was ready for its final wash in tray #4. Constant agitation in clean water for 20 or so minutes and the prints were ready to be hung out and dried.

As the workshop took place the various details regarding taking photographs using a pinhole camera were discussed. This included the size of the aperture or pinhole; the focal length (distance from the aperture to the film plane); light conditions: positioning the camera with relation to the sun; how movement will affect the final outcome including movement of the camera as well as the subject matter.

The exquisite surrounding of Montebello Design Centre gave the students ample opportunity to explore, what was for the majority, a new process. They also got to experience a little bit of the magic and wonder that the early pioneers of photography must have experienced as they developed their first images.

With regards to sourcing materials, photographic paper, developer and fixer can be bought at Orms Pro Photo Warehouse on Roeland Street in Cape Town.

At the end of the workshop the students came away with a better understanding of analogue photography, a procedure intrinsic to all artistic genres such as printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture and new media. They were able to see the importance of light and dark binaries and the interplay of these two contrasts within art.


St.John Fuller demonstrating the importance of washing the photographic prints after fixing.
A pinhole photograph taken at the Montebello Design Centre
The DKCT darkroom for developing pinhole photographs


Sealing the pinhole camera to be ‘light tight’

Students went outside to explore the terrain and environment around the Montebello Design Centre capturing aspects of the exquisite environment interspersed at various points. By the completion of the workshop students had photographed and developed 5 photographs each.

One of the exquisite Montebello Design Centre gardens in Newlands, Cape Town used for the pinhole photography workshop

This workshop demonstrated the basic technology of analogue photography, a procedure intrinsic to all artistic genres such as printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture and new media. It emphasised the importance of light and dark binaries and the interplay of these two contrasts.

All the students thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. The results of this workshop will be used towards their continuous assessment portfolio in visual art and culture.

DK Education has the intention of doing more pinhole photography workshops with other enthusiastic learners from schools in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.