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Beware of Unicorns

Ever taken a photograph that unsettles you? I don't mean in the way that is disturbing/lewd/inappropriate/unethical. I mean in a way that disrupts your thinking on how to make images?

This entry is about a single image made with the simplest of form of camera available and with the smallest of negatives I've ever made, and using colour negative film. It's about how a single image can make you consider everything you think you know about photography... 😮

Chroma Camera Cube 135 pinhole

If you've read any of my other entries you'll probably know I suffer 'GAS' in the pursuit of "perfection" (whatever that means). This culminated in the acquiring an actual 🦄 in the form of a 7x17" ULF view camera. It's a fabulous camera to use, the process is fun and the results can be stunning both technically and aesthetically. It is however a whole lot of work and the antithesis of spontaneity and experimental.

I've been trying to wean myself of "perfection". As hopefully evident by my exploration of the Trichrome process, using a Holga and various pinhole cameras. If you want "perfection" then use digital and process the 💩 out of the image in Photoshop. See this thread on ILPOTY

Yet still the TiTAN pinhole is LF, The loaned Ondu pinhole and my Holga are MF, so I'm still resting on the crutch of large bits of film and the "quality" that infers. I'm also still limited by the cost of this larger film and the small amount of images I can fire off to experiment with.

As if by magic, to solve this problem along comes the Chroma Camera Cube 135 pinhole camera. The Cube is a 3D printed 135 pinhole camera producing 24x24mm negatives. 52 images possible on the normal 36 exposure roll. It's very clever, extremely well made, compact and light and as I discovered hugely liberating.

I loaded the Cube with some cheap Kodak Colorplus 200 and headed out for a quick stroll along Felixstowe promenade whilst the youngest played a hockey match. I started with some safe and "normal" setups but knowing I had loads of exposures to play with and wanting to finish the roll I started to play.

As a black and white photographer at heart I look for shapes, forms, lines and texture and despite using colour film I did what I normally do. Rooting behind beach huts, stepping off the beaten path, trying to find simple compositions that give a sense of a location. This is where I "found" this image. Off the path, behind a life belt holder. To be brutally honest the composition as I saw it wasn't terribly captivating. I was intrigued by the container ship on the horizon, the possibility of some flare and the horizontal lines. The joy of pinhole is the lack of a viewfinder, it's impossible to know what the resulting capture will look like. With the Cube I had loads of exposures available so why not make the exposure? With the TiTAN I probably wouldn't have bothered (and you might well think I shouldn't have bothered with the Cube either 😬).

Drum roll please...

Felixstowe Promenade pinhole

Lets state the absolute obvious first. It's not an award winning image by any stretch of the imagination. It is however hugely eye opening for me (and maybe you also). The essence of the location is captured in an abstract and minimal way. Yet we have sky, clouds, container ship, sea, beach, promenade, life belt holder, flare and colour. All on a tiny, grainy, slightly colourful 24x24mm negative on cheap colour film. It's the complete opposite of the highly technical and hugely costly (in time and money) of 7x17" ULF photography and the perfection I used to seek. To produce such an interesting image (to me) from these "cheap" and simple tools has got me thinking a great deal about the what/how/why of my photography.

Have you had a similar experience? Let me know if you have or what you think of this image?

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