Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson Pinhole Photographer

Why Pinhole Photography?

For the past 44 years I have been on a journey as well as a love affair with the art of black-and-white landscape photography. My tools of choice had been medium- but mainly large-format cameras. I have followed the philosophy of the West Coast and f /64 approach to recording the landscape. This group believed that photography should not be painterly in nature but produce images that are extremely sharp with great depth of field and with detail. Needless to say, my original view of pinhole photography was not very high. I rarely got excited over the idea of fuzzy im­ages made from poking a hole in an oatmeal box.

Over the past few years, I have been searching for a different approach to my photography and image making. I started researching on the internet for infor­mation about pinhole photography. As it turns out, I was very, very, very wrong in my assumptions about what pinhole photography was all about, as well as the range of quality an image could achieve if you understood the science involved.

To say the least, I was intrigued and impressed, and the more I searched for information, the more I learned about this wonderful world of pinhole photography. As of January 2012, I have been on this wonderful and exciting journey in the world of “Photography Without A Lens” (What a rush of excitement and information!) The traditional approach to this medium brings me back to the very basics of what photography is all about. The extreme depth of field, the other-worldli­ness, and the ability to record accumulated time has put the “Magic” back in photography for me.

I understand that an obsession about something is not a good thing, but I must tell you that I am obsessed with the wonderful world that has been opened up to me. I view my world in a completely different way now, through the use of a camera with no lens – pinhole photography.

What A Journey!

It has been almost four years since I have been able to make a pilgrimage to one of my most favorite places to photograph, New Mexico, often referred to as the “Land Of Enchantment”.

Over the years I have come to understand why this phrase has such a strong meaning to me. The light in this part of the country is beyond belief. The formations, canyons, and the views of the landscape are breathtak­ing. It always feels as though I am traveling back to a time when the earth was very young in its formation.

“The White Place” with the 5 x 7 Pinhole Camera

I had the misfortune of only being at this magnificent place for one day. As a matter of fact, it was my last day before returning home. I did something I normally don’t like to do when traveling, which was to make one and only one exposure per scene with the pinhole camera. I chose to do this to increase my yield of im­ages because I only had ten 5 x 7 film holders with me. I must say I was a bit nervous about this idea.

When using sheet film with a pinhole camera, there is always the possibility that anything could happen; a holder not seated right in the camera, a scratch on the negative, the possibilities of light leaks, or a mis­judgment in my exposure compensation for reciproc­ity failure.

At this point I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. With these thoughts going on in my head, I tried to put my concerns about technique aside and to become one with the pinhole camera. To experience all the beauty around me, to be in awe of the endless structures, stri­ations and, sculptures. There were caverns of all types and sizes with amazing amphitheaters that stretched out over the landscape. These fantastically white cliffs seemed to rise from the ground resembling skyscrap­ers, rivaling any of our large metropolitan cities. In places they seemed to be over 500 feet tall. The light­ing was magnificent, everything appeared to glow and radiate from within the formations themselves.

I tried to get a feel for what I was experiencing to become one with the environment. It was an experi­ence to be using equipment and approaches that dated back to the very beginning of photography in a place that I love so much.

I knew in my heart and soul that I would have to return to this magnificent place known as “The White Place”, Plaza Blanca. What an experience.



Richard Johnson

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