It seems simple enough. Pinhole cameras capture light through a tiny aperture in a light-tight box to create an image on film or paper. It’s one of the first questions I typically get from passers-by as I stand waiting beside my pinhole box while the film inside is exposing. It’s also one of the earliest forms of photography and wonderfully easy to do.
The pinhole camera grew out of the camera obscura, a darkened room with a tiny hole which allowed light in and exposed an inverted image onto the opposing wall. It’s a phenomena that was known by Aristotle and Mo-Ti a Chinese philosopher from 470 to 390 BCE. There are books and articles online that explain the origins of this camera, but the camera remains the same. It’s still just a box with a pinhole.
In grade school, I remember taking a shoebox camera class for a day. We punctured a hole in some aluminum foil, cut out a hole in a box, attached the foil over the hole then put paper inside the box to capture an image. Exposure times were incredibly short with the magnificent Hawaiian sun shining down on us. When we had exposed our paper, we handed it to our instructor to develop. It was the most popular class and filled up nearly every time they offered it.
My pinhole camera of choice is the Zero Image 6x9 which is a gorgeous hardwood box with brass hardware. It’s an unusual looking camera in these modern times of DSLRs and compact point and shoots, and I love the images it can produce. The image above was taken at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Capitol Hill. If you're interested in pinhole photography there are several resources online and an incredible number of pinhole photographers who have made their own cameras. I’ll try to gather those resources and add them to my site soon.