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Interview With A Pinhole Photographer Who Shoots Nudes

Interview With A Pinhole Photographer Who Shoots Nudes - Site member danmcc specialises in nude pinhole photography. Here we learn more about his technique.

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danmcc is based in New York and captures images of nudes using a pinhole camera.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a photographer living in upstate NY, and I have been photographing the nude as my subject matter since graduate school over forty years ago. I met Wendy the summer after I earned my BS in Photography at a "Love In" in Chicago. She worked as an artist's model posing nude for painters, sculptors and photographers. So she introduced me to photographing the nude. We married and I moved from Chicago to teach at Purdue University, Pratt Institute and SUNY New Paltz. Near New Paltz, we bought a house and raised four kids who are now grown and doing their own thing. And now forty years later, I still find the nude compelling. I am trying to make new pictures, exploring cameras, techniques and processes. It has been the Pinhole Camera for over the past twelve years that I have been using.

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Q. How did you first get into photography?

As a freshman science student in college, I was not interested in the field and was doing poorly. So I switched into photography at the Institute of Design ( the New Bauhaus). I did not know what I was getting into but I found myself going to museums and galleries and libraries to look at photographs and art work. I suddenly was immersed in looking at and thinking about photography.

Q. What inspires you photographically?

Photographing the nude is what I care about. There is excitement each time I photograph a new model. After I have worked with a model several times, there is a shared energy with the model to find something new. It is a collaboration.

Q. How did you first get into pinhole photography?

When I was scheduled to teach a class where I was to introduced Cyanotype printing, I wanted a way for students to make large negatives. The pinhole camera was a means to make those large negatives. Since I was going to teach students to make and use pinhole cameras, I knew that I needed to explore that technique. At first I did not see much distortion as I photographed nudes and trees. Then a friend suggested that I include buildings and when I did, I really saw the distortions.

Q. What makes it such a good medium for you?

I learned photography using the 4x5 view camera for four years in college. I learned the controls of exposure/development and ground glass framing of my images. In grad school, I learned the silver darkroom controls of composite compositions. After college I loosened up by shooting quickly and freely with a 35 mm camera. The pinhole camera offers even more freedom as I have no view finder. When I develop the film, there is so much surprise as to the distortion because of the round camera and what is framed that this makes the pinhole camera so compelling.

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Q. Tell us a bit about how you set up a shot.

Most recently, I have been photographing a model nude in her home. I have 15 cameras in three milk crates and a small quartz light with a long extension cord. I come into the model's home and talk with her for about ten minutes, looking quickly for picture sites. I begin with the model posing nude usually in the living room. My exposures are two minutes and I count out 15 second marks. But while I am counting I look around for what is special in the room. I am looking for clues to the model's personality. I usually move around the room, changing camera angle, lighting according to what is in the room, interesting windows, pieces of furniture or just things. I next move to an adjacent room, perhaps a study, an entertainment room, or kitchen, and I light it and set up the camera. I move around the room and see if the model is comfortable in that room. I also try to shoot in the bathroom and the bedroom. After I expose my last camera, I sit down and talk with the model and share my impressions of the shoot and my feeling of what we got. It usually takes about three hours for the shoot. I need time for my lights to cool before I can pack them up, so conversation is a meaningful way to end the interaction of the shoot.

In the next week or so I go into the lab where I can process seventeen 8x10 films at a time with batch processing. I often have two or three shoots to process. When the film is dried I bring the negatives home and view them on a small light box. Most of the time I scan all the film from one shoot. Then after I have scanned them, I begin to colourize each file, The images are on 8"x10" B&W film and scanned at 2400ppi. Sometimes I can colourize three pictures in a day. Other times one just doesn't seem to be working and I will continue on the file for several days while I work on other images. I usually resolve one set and then view jpegs of that set. I look for several that are the most interesting. I then select those and scale up to 65% to 100% to spot the file. This may take a couple of hours to a day depending on dust or flaws that are in the file. When the files are cleaned up, I make 20" x16" digital prints. It is from these first prints that I make the choice of which are the special images that I print 30" x 24". Then I need to mat and frame the selected images and ship off to an exhibit.

Q. Do you have any tips for pinhole photography beginners, or photography in general?

The best advise that I have is that as you are learning about photography also learn about the world, culture and society and then yourself. Grasp all the photographic technique and process, old techniques and new media. But find out where your joy is and then follow it.

Have a look at danmcc's profile where you'll find more of his pinhole images.

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