Pinhole Workshop with current exhibitor Dafna Talmor

In February, I was selected alongside three other photographers for the current Photofusion SELECT/13 exhibition. Alongside the exhibition, I proposed to run a Pinholes Workshop in collaboration with the Community Programme team at Photofusion as it is a fun way to introduce students to the basic principles of photography and the darkroom. It also seemed fitting as my practice is film-based and relies on the use of a (colour) darkroom.

Much to our relief, the weather was on our side on the day of the workshop. It was a lovely, sunny Saturday morning when the group of Year 9 & 10 students from Platanos College arrived at Photofusion. We started our day in the gallery with a tour of the exhibition as I was curious to find out what the students made of the work. It was also a good way to get them to think about the different ways photography can be used and inspire them for the afternoon of image-making.

As all the participating photographers had recently done an artist talk, I had plenty of first-hand information and anecdotes for the students. As I expected, the students did not disappoint with a lot of fascinating opinions and some great questions about the work. We had a very lively chat in the gallery covering everything from portraiture, documentary, time-lapse, recycling, visual diaries, photo books, landscapes, imaginary worlds, film versus digital and more.

I also brought in my 6 x 4.5 Mamiya medium format camera and a roll of 120 film to show the students. Much to their delight and my horror, we calculated that the students were about as old as my camera (bought in 1998). They enjoyed passing it round and were surprised by how heavy it was. We spoke about the many different formats/cameras that exist and that were used by the photographers in the show.

The gallery tour was followed by a pinholes demo. As we didn’t have time to make them on the day, I showed the students a few examples of pinhole cameras and some images I had made earlier. I explained how all cameras work on the same basic principles: an aperture letting light in to project an image onto light-sensitive photographic paper/film (or sensor in digital) in a light-tight chamber. They seemed quite impressed with the fact that any box could be made into a camera quite easily and were very excited to test them out. A handout with instructions on how to make pinholes was provided for future use.

We continued into the darkroom and I was pleased to hear squeals of delight as the students adjusted to the red-hued atmosphere and the smell of chemicals. We went through the different trays/timings consisting of developer, stop bath, fixer and running water with an image we had exposed using one of the pinholes.

Having bombarded the students with lots of information, I asked them to think about what they’d like to shoot over a much-needed lunch break!

After a quick lunch, we all congregated in the darkroom where I talked them through loading the pinholes. Working in pairs, the students excitedly went to test them out. They kept a log of timings, etc. on the whiteboard throughout the afternoon so everyone could share the information and swap cameras during the workshop.

We had an incredibly productive afternoon working collaboratively taking lots of pictures on the roof and throughout the gallery, with lots of exciting and inspiring results which we all admired at the end of the session.

All in all it was an incredibly enjoyable day and one that I hope we can repeat in the near future.

I look forward to reading their blog posts and the exhibition reviews they promised to write after their half term…!

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Written by Dafna Talmor,

*This workshop was generously supported by Photofusion and a Grants for the Arts Award I received from Arts Council England.