Photograms and Pinhole Camera Prototyping
WICO friend and master educator Modesto Tamez from the Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium came over to the gallery a couple weeks ago to help out with the workshop planning. Previously we had experimented with a hands-on photogram workshop at an After Dark event at the Exploratorium and we wanted to revisit the idea with some new additions.
Photograms are images made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of light-sensitive paper. Depending on how much light hits the paper and exposes the surface of the paper you can see really detailed almost 3D images. Photograms are a really interesting way to explore properties of everyday objects in an unexpected ways.
In the previous workshop at the Exploratorium, we worked in a darkroom environment (lit only by red light which won’t expose the photopaper). For that workshop, we built cardboard boxes that had a light bulb and switch mounted in the top to the box so that participants could create the photograms without contaminating other participants’ projects.
We wanted to take things a step further this time by creating a “darkroom in the box” and adding an arcade button for the white light. We cut holes in the box and added black sleeves so that people could move objects around inside like an astronaut box.
So that people can see what’s happening inside the box we created a little viewer with a red filter (so that outside light won’t come in).
When you make a photogram, you have to put the paper in a black plastic envelop in a dark room (or in our case a converted water closet) open the flap and then arrange the materials for the photograms using the sleeves.
We’re going to create a pop-up darkroom for the real workshop, but in this case we just huddled in our makeshift space to develop the photos. It’s super interesting to take the photograms through the developer, fixer and wash steps and watch the photo emerge.
There was a bit of experimentation to get the exposure just right (the amount of time to press the button for the light) but we ended up making some cool prints in a short amount of time.
The week after, I tested out building pinhole cameras and developing the prints inside the same box using the astronaut arm technique.
There’s something super additive about developing the pinhole prints and working inside the box allows for rapid iteration on the process. It took me five or six tries to get the timing and technique right but eventually I got some really images of the house across the street that I felt pretty proud of!
As we prepare for the workshop, we’re putting more thought into the design of the workshop elements. Nicole sewed some more sturdy and reusable sleeves for the boxes and we’re thinking about how to best facilitate the flow of the workshop.
Join us for either workshop (or both) for a really fun introduction to the art and science of photography and pinholes. We’re really excited to share this idea with both photography experts and beginners.