Thursday, July 9, 2009

THE HISTORY OF LIGHT In the early 1990s I embarked on a project investigating the possibilities of pinhole photography. Generally used as a game to amuse small children, it is a way of making photographic images without the use of a camera. The paradox of using low-end means to achieve high concept results both satisfied my craving for a Luddite means of production and a way to reference issues current in contemporary art. At its simplest, a small hole is made in the wall of a dark room allowing the tiny beam of light entering the room to project an image of the outside world on the opposite wall. Historically, it was a tool used by painters like Johannes Vermeer to side step the complexities of perspective. Any light tight container will do: a shoebox for example. The “lens” is merely a piece of tinfoil with a pinprick set into one side of the box. A sheet of photographic paper is mounted opposite the lens. Once the exposure has been made, the paper is processed in the usual fashion in a darkroom, and the resulting negative image can then be contact printed to produce a positive image. What is unusual about the process is that the pinhole captures an image with an indefinite depth of field so that all objects near and far, are perfectly in focus. The lengths of exposures are learned through trial and error, and depending of the light and weather conditions an exposure could be as long as thirty minutes. This would render any moving object invisible. The results are often gloom and forlorn. The nine photographs reproduced here are drawn from a 20 image series. Drawn together under the elusive title of “The History of Light” this suite was created largely in Brooklyn, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. With it’s capacity for an indefinite depth of field, pinhole photographs of small mundane objects assume the monumentality of public sculpture. An ordinary one dollar bill becomes as obnoxious and intrusive as a billboard dominating a junkyard and an accidental light leak renders a Ken doll into a seductively insinuating figure hovering over a bubbling cauldron worthy of the brothers Grimm. Scribbling on and adding collage elements to the negative ups the ante for a picture’s conceptual implications, and the medium is ideally suited to transform the mere gothic into something more satisfyingly overwrought and post- apocalyptic. BRUCE EVES

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