Brian J Richman

Pinhole Photography

Ever wonder when the word "Camera" comes from? Going back to the very earliest of photographic techniques to render an image is the "Camera Obscura". The camera obscura (which is Latin; camera for "chamber/room", obscura for "dark", together "darkened chamber/room". These were indeed just blacked out rooms with a small hole on one side allowing the light to spill into the room and because of the small size of the hole, the light would project an image onto the far wall. Magic!

Over time, these large rooms were shrunk down to semi-portable boxes, several feet large, lenses stuck on to replace the pinhole, metal or glass plates inserted with photo sensitive coatings, all of which led to film and ever smaller and smaller "cameras".

There are many issues with these really old principles in modern photography. There are basic laws of physics that dictate (and in many cases limit) the quality of the image projected and therefore available to capture and the exposure times (because the image is relatively weak as there isn't a lens) are relatively long. These times can be measured in tens of minutes in very low light situations. So why would anyone want to mess with something as "bad" as this? Because the images they produce can be dreamy and almost unearthly. It is also possible to show the impression of motion as things or people move around in the field of view as the "shutter" is open for a number of seconds. The results can also have a certain "painterly" feeling to them. All very unlike a regular photographic image.

Now in the 21st century, it is possible to create almost any shape using moderately resilient materials and with a little bit of thought and design, with 3D printers you can make something that not only works but works well. Enter the "Flyer 6x6":

So this is a pinhole camera. No electronics. No lens. No gears. No meter. No viewfinder. The top comes off for you to load the film (120 in 6x6 format by the way), and that is it. Nothing else. Want to know more? Then check out the web site of the maker:

I shot my first roll of film (actually came free with the camera itself), yesteerday using the little device and got some interesting results. I was experimenting with exposure times, so while I got all 12 frames exposed, only half were any good. Now I know how the "focal length" and exposure "feels" (also no close ups with this one), I can get to work with it. Here are the best six from that first roll:

My Uncle Ivor...

I have just placed a new album and page online that is a re-work of the tribute portfolio my family put together for my old Uncle Ivor after he died. He was a member of the British Royal Photographic Society and obviously, back in the day, everything was film (black and white) only.

He liked Pentax SLR cameras as well as all those old Russian post-world war two Leica/Zeiss rangefinder copies. As a musician, he also spent years on-board cruise ships playing gypsy as well as jazz music. As you can see, he took great advantage of the shore trips and many of the images reflect the people and places they visited.

A quick word about the images. These are low quality and down-sampled versions of the original images. If any of them do catch your eye and you want to use a high resolution image for commercial purpose, please email me (using the contact page), and the small use fee will go towards the expenses of running this web site. To see the tributes and album of images, just select the "Ivor Richman" link on the top of every page.

Amazon patents the white background

Look Up...

This is so true... Look up from the damn screen you fool. The world is around you, it isn't on a computer.

I like Koken.

This software system, the "Koken CMS" (CMS stands for "Content Management System"), seems to be just what I have been looking for right-out-of-the-box. In actual fact there are a couple of things missing from the default and free templates.

As of the time of writing, the entire system is still in beta test status, so there are bound to be a few unexpected potential failures or bugs that the team who develop Koken had no idea were there. They are also adding new features and changing the code "under the hood" until they get the system as fine tuned as they feel they need it to be, before launching it on the world. While I like Koken, it's certainly not finished its initial core development cycle yet, so there are plenty of new things to come.

Computers and me.

The capture of an image is just the start. All modern image makers need to use computers in one shape and form or another to produce that image. Printers have computers in them, display screens have computers in them, and of course, modern digital cameras are only possible because of computers.

An ICL Mainframe computer from the early 1970'sThe ICL 1906A. A typical computer of the era. Courtesy The Atlas Computer Lab, Chilton.

When I started making photographs, it was in the far off days when computers were huge rows of boxes with vacuum tubes or even the very latest technology of the day: transistors. They were housed in the warehouse sized buildings that we needed to contain these immense beasts. They had no more compute power than the digital clocks and watches of today (perhaps even less?) and in those days were things of great wonder.

I have ‘enjoyed’ a career working with some of these behemoths of old. Perhaps you have seen some of the computers I have worked on in the movies and on TV? Odd parts (mostly control panels) have turned up in at least one episode of the BBC production of “Blake 7″, several Dr. Who episodes, two James Bond films “The Man with a Golden Gun” and “For your Eyes Only”, as both featured ICL 1301 mainframe computers. Even Peter Cushing in “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” and Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” are notable film users of my old computers.

I also set up the computer room scene for the 1979 Nicolas Roeg film BAD TIMING that stared Art Garfunkel (we shot that in the old ICL computer demonstration room in Fulham by Putney Bridge) in West London. That movie won the “Best Film” award at the Toronto Film Festival too. Now if only I could get residual payments as a result of such a great list of TV and movie work, I’d have retired by now! Oh well.

Today we scoff and turn up our noses at anything with less than many thousands or even millions of times the power and storage capacities greater than the computers of those long gone days. I accept and embrace the use of computers in modern photography. 

Even when I use film as the initial image capture medium, my effort is directed towards the transfer of the image itself into digital format at the earliest opportunity. This makes the manipulation of the image itself easier and more flexible. Does this mean I’ll never use a darkroom again? Of course, not, It’s just a case of using the right tool for the task at hand. 

Most of my computing time is now either spent with laptop and other portable devices or when they are at home base, plugged into screens the size of TV sets. I use the Adobe Photoshop CS series along with Nik and Topaz plugins as well as a host of other odd bits of software I have picked up along the way including an old copy of Paint Shop Pro that has done really well for me. This old software dates back to 1997, which is more than a lifetime in the world of modern computing. Do I always use this software? No, but knowing it is there to help if needed is to make best use of all the tools at my disposal.

“Never forget the power of imagination.” This was a slogan used at the launch of a new computer that I worked with. For me, the computer has been a way to unleash that imagination. 

I hope you have enjoyed this trip back down my computing memory lane. I didn’t intend for that when I started, but it does at least underline the pervasive nature that computers have in image making these days and for modern Photography in particular.

About me

I am originally from England and was actually born in the same part of north London as Don McCullin the photographer/author famed for having his Nikon F camera take a bullet from an AK47 and save his life while he was on assignment during the Vietnam war.

Currently, I call Fort Worth, Texas my home having also lived in several parts of England including London, Brighton in Sussex and some time in East Anglia in a town called Woodbridge near Ipswich in the county of Suffolk.

My photographs are published in print and online both for my employer and elsewhere. I have won awards for my work, including the Colonial Mutual photography prize, had gallery exhibitions, am featured in books and also received a number of honorable mentions in competition. 

 It was my father who first excited my interest in photography with his curiosity in the potential for the results that first captured my attention. Relatives of mine were also members of the Royal Photographic Society in the UK, so I spent much time with cameras and in darkrooms all of which provided a substantial amount of training in the craft of film based photography. 

Now as we move well into the digital age of image making I am exciting my interest in things photographic all over again. Having musicians, graphic artists, architects, and fine artists as relatives while I was growing up, a variety of the arts and image making in particular were all around me. As an adult, it is beyond imagination that my life would continue uninterrupted without at least some involvement in this aspect of the arts. I have taken Photographs nearly all my life; starting in the mid 1960′s aged about 9 or 10, during the 1970′s when art became a significant part of my life, and now in the 21st Century, when photography has once again, become important for me. While studying for the British Diploma in Art and Design qualification in the early 1970′s, I became disillusioned by the modern art school approach to the subject. Now post-art-school and living in a different country, I am once again able to concentrate on the arts and my personal creativity.