Made with a pinhole camera and color film
To be displayed printed/projected very large
Scroll to the bottom of the page for production process and ideas behind the work
Work in progress
Work in progress
Work in progress
The images are made with a simple wooden pinhole camera (a camera without refracting lenses) by a camera manufacturer in Poland and 120mm Kodak/Ilford film (slowly being phased out of production).
Instead of the image being recorded on a flat plane of film, the image is recorded on a circular plane of film. Since these are pictures of objects with rotational symmetry, the two circles geometrically cancel each other out and produce straight vertical lines. Please see the diagrams below:
The film is relatively low ISO (100), and the negatives are around 4 exposures wide. This fine grain structure and large negatives mean that the images can be displayed at a very large scale.
The pinhole camera is put right up against the plant (within an inch or two) and the exposure is made. The exposure range from 15 minutes to 8 hours depending on the nature of the light they are shot in. Different types of lighting produces different effects.
Sometimes the images were shot outdoors with a slight breeze blowing. In some of the flower images, the effect of this can be seen where the petals blur together.
In addition, many of the images that were shot outdoors with natural light were shot at times where the lighting and the colors in the sky were changing, like during sunrises, sunsets or during periods of shifting cloud cover. In some cases the changing light conditions create a temporary wash of a certain color. In other cases the lighting is changed in between the exposures (eg. natural light, then artificial). It is a kind of lighting-layering effect where the same subject is seen simultaneously through different kinds of lights.
The film is taken out of the camera and then developed in a photo lab. The negatives can then be projected on to light sensitive paper, a wall or even scanned to a high quality digital form. The ultimate vision for this project is to skip the digital step in the production of the final images.
The camera itself has no viewfinder so exposure times and setups have to be manually calculated and the results are not seen before the negative is produced.
A pinhole camera is a light-proof box pierced with a tiny hole. It is the earliest form of image projection. The technique was mentioned in the ancient Chinese text The Mozi and even by Leonardo da Vinci. A modern camera with lenses uses refraction to focus an image. A pinhole camera uses a fundamentally different phenomenon: diffraction. As a result of this, a pinhole camera does not have depth of field that way a modern camera does. That is, parts of the image don't go out of focus (as long as the subject is still). In addition, the camera can also focus on objects which are very close to it (that is how in this series, the camera can be placed even within an inch of the subject). The process is entirely analog, the camera itself is a simple wooden box but the results would be nearly impossible to replicate using even the most precisely engineered and manufactured lens.
Ideas Behind the Work
The plants are photographed on their own, outside their natural environments. They are decontextualized. Their proportions are thrown off. By altering some of the visual properties of a familiar object, we are asked to drop our concepts of it and see it with something like a child's vision. This is a process of "deconceptualization". The object appears more as a hallucination. The plant form is deconstructed only using light properties, diffraction and chemicals.
As children, it is easier to zoom in to a visual object or a sound and close off the surroundings to perceive a high level of detail. With a pinhole camera, everything is in focus, even objects that are very close to the camera.
The age we live in is one of mental saturation. We have not set limits on how many bits of information we take in daily. Most of the research on how much is a healthy amount of images, video, short flashing text and Virtual Reality to expose ourselves to has remained in the realm of academia with a few books on the subject making their way into mainstream US reading (eg: The Shallows, Nicholas Carr). The amount of weakly-connected informational bits we can consume safely before seeing a significant impact on the nervous system is not being asked by those who are enabling the information explosion. As a result, we are seeing rampant consumption of rapidly-changing, largely inconsequential and non-actionable inputs. When we scroll down a feed of information, we see everything from news bulletins, life updates from friends, ads. It becomes a kind of externally arranged stream of consciousness.
We are pulled away from our internal processes and awareness to such a degree that is becomes difficult to reconnect with them and actually remember what it was like to think for ourselves. When we scroll down a feed, our eyes focus, readjust, and skim. This flashing around of the eyes creates an internal state of anxiety and imbalance. The Plantscapes are designed to be a response to this way of processing visual input. It gives us a window, something to look at without or pulling us away from our inner workings. The need of our time is to retrain the mind to be able to focus on single things for a long period of time. The process used to create the Plantscapes is intentionally long and drawn out (the exposure length varies from 15m to 8hrs). This is done to show a different kind of image from the quicker, algorithmically processed snapshot we are growing accustomed to seeing. The scale of the pictures will invite us to spend a little longer with the images, asking for a different way of engaging with them.
The camera obscura, pinhole technique goes right back to the roots of photography, and of image projection in general. Whether or not the viewers are aware of the physics of the process used to create the images, my hope is that they will feel like they are looking at something closely connected to the source material.
Many of the flowers have very short lifespans compared to that of humans'. In other words, there are more generations of the life form in a given amount of time. That means that the life form is changing drastically over time. These flowers were bought at local grocery stores and flower markwets where they are cultivated on farms so these are portraits of highly specialized, but a rapidly morphing life form. It is a snapshot in time. The morphing of the life form through the generations follows a consistent geometric logic.
The Plantscapes are a cross between still lifes and landscapes. Their primary purpose is as tools for meditation. That is why the large scale of the display is very important. The series uses raw materials from nature. It is part of an effort to reconnect the human with the natural world.
Religious Symbols are used to signify the experience of a connection with something other than the self. Natural forms transcend culture. They represent "the deculturalization of spirituality". Every culture has it's own set of mystical and religious symbols. This series of work explores the symbols and objects that seem to be fundamental to multiple disparate cultures. Appreciation for natural forms is a deeply human thing. We may not see all the patterns in the plant form, but what we can call the "ancient mind" underneath finds the patterns and logic and feels a sense of comfort when they are identified. Mysticism is nothing but a connection to our ancient minds. The part of us that has no culture, no identifications with certain groups or ideas. It is a deculturalized, decontextualized space that exists in everyone. If we look back through the evolution of the species, there are certain forms like plants and other natural forms that have existed in the human psyche from the beginning. These are things our ancestors looked at, and I feel like the silhouettes and geometric progressions of these forms remained as old memories in our human/animal psyche.