|Bruce Trail: Early Spring (2009) by M.L.Holton - SOLD|
In other 'New Years' news, I also recently completed a great interview with David Ellis via his arts blog, about my pinhole photography. Have a gander - Photographer Interview - Margaret Lindsay Holton.
A few choice extracts follow -
DL: Thank you for chatting to us today about the traits of your photography, along with what motivates and influences you as a photographer. Firstly, please tell us about your photography speciality, which is Pinhole Photography. What type of photography is this and what are its origins?
Margaret Lindsay Holton replies:
Pinhole photography is the oldest known form of photography on the planet. The earliest known use of this technique was in Asia around 500 B.C, and in the West, around 500 A.D. During the Renaissance it enjoyed a brief resurgence as scientists and philosophers explored the emerging realm of optics. Sir David Brewster, a Scottish scientist, first coined the phrase ‘pin-hole’ in the 1850’s. Also known as a ‘camera obscura’, pinhole photography – without the use of lens or fancy mechanical gadgetry – lets in a small pinhole of light to a completely blacked-out cavity. This incoming pinhole of light creates a upside-down reverse image of what the pinhole is facing.
In other words, it creates a ‘negative’.I use photo-sensitive paper to create my images. From the paper ‘negative’, I pull a ‘positive’ print in my darkroom using conventional developing techniques. The ‘positive’ photo image, also known as a ‘contact print’, is what you see as the finished photograph.
Labour intensive, creating one pinhole image can easily take 8 to 10 hours, from initial ‘loading’ of the photo-sensitive paper in the darkroom, to the end result of the final photo image. Yet, oddly, time dissolves when pinholing. The process forces one to be very attentive to the ‘here and now’. All becomes vivid, more immediate. One is literally dancing with Light…
I am ever beguiled by this seemingly archaic form of ‘slow photography’. It amazes me still, even after nearly two decades of pinholing, that I can create photo images without a lens, or a mechanical box with shutters or digital fittings.
Have you always been interested in Pinhole Photography or do you have other genre types of pictures that you have focused on over the course of your career?
I began taking photographs many years ago, like many, with a simple Box Brownie. As I grew older, I moved into more conventional photography, with upgrades of equipment, first using 35mm film then switching to digital, for the last twenty years.
Now, as an award-winning, multi-disciplined and senior Canadian artist, I see and use the discipline of photography as an alternative tool to perceive, interpret and document the world that I inhabit.
I have always pinholed somewhat organically. I never, as example, use a light meter. Rather, to understand exposure, I instinctively gauge the brilliance of the Sun bouncing off objects, constantly learning by trial and error.
All in all, I am not particularly ‘connected’ to current digital methods of photography. Cameras are tools that can be used in a variety of different ways to amplify WHAT we see and HOW we see it. The skill of photography – to convey meaning – comes with the understanding of the effects of light while adroitly framing a composition. Mechanical cameras and digital software twiddle with these photo basics.
To that end, aside from pinhole photography, I create digital photo-montages where I layer images on top of each other to create hybrid visual stories.
I also create what I call digital ‘white outs’. In this method, I take a digital image and then, via now an outdated computer software program, manually erase segments, by moving the computer mouse. The effect creates an interesting fusion of perceived as well as created contours that, I believe, both please and engage the mind’s eye.
Lately, I have also been using digital video to explore additional aspects of visual storytelling.
About five years ago, I started by making short documentary profiles for local news outlets using my Apple iPod and a simple Apple editing application, iMovie. These video shorts allowed me to hone my shooting and editing style.
Then, in 2016, I wrote and directed my first narrative film, ‘The Frozen Goose’. This period film, about a rural family coping in the aftermath of WW1, with a cast of five, has exhibited at festivals over the past year, aired on local cable stations, received good media coverage and is now globally available online.
As a result, it is much more likely that people will be aware of my ‘art making’ capabilities via film, than by my pinhole photography or even my signature painted works. That’s just the nature of the beast.
The serious fun part of filming is, in fact, the editing, not the shooting. Why? Because editing moving pictures establishes a basic cognitive resonance between the filmmaker and the viewer in a way that still photography seldom can. With film, the editor intimately ‘tells the story’ from start to finish, leading the viewers’ eye, ear and minds.
With still photography, the reality of viewer distraction is far greater. And the viewer, through their own perceptual bias, ends up mentally quick-editing the stationary image, in order to find their own meaning. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a more capricious engagement process then creating video stories. It is much much tougher to make an arresting still photograph, let alone, a good pinhole image.
Other than that, I continue to paint two dimensional works, as I have done for over 40+ years. You can sample that kind of work via my art blog. ...
Whose photographic work has influenced you the most in your life?
Henri Cartier-Bresson. But I don’t know that he has particularly influenced my work. I do very much admire his compositions and acute eye, his way of seeing. We all see so many images now. What seems to hold attention these days is the jarring or often visually upsetting image. But I don’t know that this is really useful or helpful to anyone, in that, we have become somewhat anesthetized and polluted by the vast array of digital photography flicking on multiple screens. They are constantly demanding our attention: “Look at ME!” Think of the constant barrage of ‘attention grabbing’ headline photos of extreme whatever. Our minds are constantly being assaulted by this advertiser-induced stuff to – to just WATCH. My intent, by changing the means of photographic creation – be it through pinhole, photo-montage or white-outs – is to ‘Free the Eye’.
I hope to visually persuade viewers to make new synaptic connections that seduce through gentle curiosity and interest, instead of through heightened uncertainty or horrific pain. Violence doesn’t have to be a mainstay of how we SEE things. ...
Among all of your photographic works, which one is your personal favourite and why is it your favourite?
Oh dear. Impossible to choose. I like many for very different reasons. Light effects, composition, familiarity of subject matter or even the ‘odd ball’ shot. One of my favourite pinhole images, as example, was entirely a mistake. The mounted photo-sensitive paper fell off inside the camera during exposure. The result was a ‘double image’ of the window frame. Interestingly, this image sold to an enthusiastic collector from Portland, Oregon, about a decade ago.
When and how were you originally inspired to become a photographer? Also do you have any formal training that you draw upon?
I became enamored with pinhole photography after taking a one-day workshop with Di Bos, a pinholer of some acclaim here, in Canada, in 2001. I was amazed that a photo image could emerge without using a conventional camera. Aside from that initial pinhole baptism, I have learned 100% by doing.
How do you personally educate yourself to take better pictures? What sort of research do you partake to improve your skills?
The internet, unlike mainstream tell-a-vision, has provided an astonishing array of options to improve HOW we see. I use various web portals to explore HOW others SEE, like Pinterest or Instagram.
If a photograph resonates, I always STOP, and look again to understand WHY. It could be a simple thing like the flow of highlights within a photo, or, alternatively, the absence of light.
Do you use any specific editing software packages or written guides to assist you with the production of your pictures?
No. Pinholing is done manually.
How do you spend your free time when you are not taking pictures?
When we open our eyes in the morning, we immediately start taking mental pictures. This activity guides our hand to turn on the light and find our slippers. The portals of our eyes feed our minds to constantly assess the risks, challenges, pleasures and rewards of daily living. Equally, when we go to bed at night, we zoom off into visual worlds of our memory and our sub-conscious. It’s how our minds work. — What do I DO when not making pictures? I think – and Live.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
My next pinhole exhibit will be in July of 2018 at the charming Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. The show is intended as a compliment to my fall show that I had at Oakville’s Sovereign House Museum in 2017, entitled ‘SUN SHADOWS’. Some of my older hand-made pinhole cameras will be on display there too. Drop in!
What are the things that you wish that you knew back when you first started taking photos? Do you have any parting words for other aspiring photographers to take to heart?
As I am a painter first, I have always approached photography as another artist’s tool. The primary image-making device, that we all possess, is our own eye. This is an extraordinarily powerful device when fused with the aspirations, neuro-stumbling and imaginations of our minds.
Best advice I can give, Learn to SEE. A good primer about SEEING – clearly – can be found in John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’. (Best to READ the book instead of watching the online documentary.) Think about what you’re reading. Penetrate and understand the inherent stories of the beautiful, good, bad, evil and the ugly that SEEING clearly can convey.
THEN pick up a camera to document what and how you see what you do.
The skill is 100% in the SEEING – not in the camera itself.
And that’s a wrap!