Photographer Sharon Harris Captures Surreal Photographs With Pinhole Cameras

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Pinhole photography is lensless photography where a tiny hole or a pinhole replaces the lens in the pinhole camera. Light enters through this pinhole and falls on the film or photographic paper. Exposure times for pinhole photography are usually longer than usual and the images are softer in comparison to other kinds of photography.

Pinhole photography is a slow process and requires some thought to get good results. It can be meditative and yield visually distinct results. Sharon Harris is a pinhole photographer who makes all her pinhole cameras and here is what Sharon has to say about her journey in pinhole photography.

Photo by Sharon Harris

“My work is centered around the female figure captured in unusual environments. The figures are solitary, adrift in their private realities, unaware of the viewer. It is as if the viewer happened upon a scene as if the curtain has been drawn back.

My journey into pinhole photography began upon the sight of a curious image developing in the darkroom. I had placed a doll in the leaves and carefully set my homemade pinhole camera on the ground directly in front of the doll. The paper negative revealed leaves that were huge and a tiny doll peeking in at the very edge of the frame. During all of my artistic explorations, this negative was quite a jolt to my imagination.

Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris

It appeared that this pinhole camera had ideas of its own and I was instantly captivated by the art of pinhole photography. I soon became consumed with the idea that cameras made from the simplest of materials could hold the key to my imagination.

I have learned the art of pinhole photography mainly through trial and error. The way a pinhole camera works is incredibly simple but can often create striking results.

There are no viewfinders or lenses in pinhole cameras. A piece of the electrical tape becomes a shutter and a nut epoxied to the camera a tripod mount.

My collection consists of twenty-five cameras which I have constructed from tins of various sizes and shapes. Prior to a photoshoot, I load each of my cameras with photographic paper, tape the lids to minimize light leaks, and carry their tripod mount facing up in my two vintage hat boxes. Through pinhole photography, I can work in a quiet, composed way while reaching for a certain aesthetic.

Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris

Passion for this medium has sustained me through years of failed images and at times, even the silliest of mistakes. What a sad sight it is to see a pinhole looking at me rather than being covered with tape, or to find that there is no photographic paper in an exposed camera of a much-anticipated photo shoot. I have come not only to accept but to cherish the unpredictable nature of this art form.

Many times I feel like a beginner at my craft and yet this very mindset can bring excitement and newness to my work. Locations that I have frequented many times before take on a whole different feel. In fact, the whole process of pinhole photography enables me to see the world in a new way, as if I am seeing through the eyes of a child.

While “Visualizing Through the Pinhole”, I anticipate images that can be presented in an imaginative way. Focusing on distortion can move us out of the ordinary and into the surreal, despite a natural environment.

Many of the spaces I seek to photograph include structures that can be transformed and reimagined through the pinhole. I juxtapose spaces, incorporate evocative props, and collaborate with models to bring forth unique perspectives. Balancing the fine line between the control I have over an image and what the pinhole presents is how I hope to capture the most striking results.

The Images I consider to be most successful have emerged from the interplay of many elements and can never be reduced to a simple formula. My approach to this medium has been much like a wanderer moving about space. There is a feeling that something may happen, or, that something surprising can be found.

Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris
Photo by Sharon Harris

All of my images reflect a desire to capture the unusual, the eccentric. Ultimately, the hope is that one will find symbolism and mythology within the realm of my pinhole photographs.”

Here are Sharon's Website and social media accounts if you would like to follow her works.

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About Author

Dahlia is a stock photographer and full time educator at Light Stalking. You can find her on Gurushots and see some of her more popular articles at The American Society of Media Photographers. Get to know her better here.

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