The Photograph Explained: “Nest: Croajingolong Dreaming” by Malcolm Gamble
There are certain images I have produced where the endpoint, the framed photographic print, is successful and personally fulfilling for the way it was created as well as for the artwork that others ultimately view.
It is the artistic vision and how that initial embryonic idea is piloted through the various steps involved in the creative process that interests me.
There is a dichotomy at play here, also: the practical necessity of controlling the technical aspects to expose a photograph correctly become juxtaposed with my fascination with pinhole cameras and their inherent imprecision. The ‘estimation’ involved in pinhole photography and subsequent inability to accurately predict results is an approach almost absent in modern digital photography. The random elements of chance and accident are an intrinsic part of the process, and to me, the soul of pinhole photography.
Those familiar with pinhole cameras will be aware of the simplicity of the process. Yet, when you are mounting what is essentially a wooden box onto a tripod, there are many decisions to be made that can’t be precisely measured: the major ones being framing and composition – no viewfinder! Exposure times, compensating for reciprocity failure, filters and so on, all these considerations in the process make the art of pinhole photography something of an inexact science. However, creating a pinhole photograph using little more than a clumsy combination of instinct, eye and experience, can be a rich reward.
When I view ‘Nest: Croajingolong Dreaming’, I recall the artistic vision I initially had when I stood before the scene and was inspired to express through photography. And how that tiny little pinprick hole has magically transformed an idea into an image and carried it along a journey with an unknown destination. This is not meant to be a faithful capture of a coastal scene: I wouldn’t be using an extremely wide-angled pinhole camera with exaggerated vignetting for that! The distortion, softness, texture and form all serve to suggest a dreamlike or altered reality.
This image is essentially about the symbolic and spiritual power of natural forms. This notion is well understood by indigenous cultures – moreover, it is an intrinsic part of who they are. In my native Ireland, the Celts similarly imbued fables and mystical powers upon the natural world.
From a technical aspect, the exposure time was quite short (by pinhole standard) being mid-summer, even allowing for the fitment of an orange filter taped to the inside of the camera behind the pinhole itself to darken the sky and increase contrast – from memory, about 5 seconds.
The negative is scanned and lightly processed (contrast adjustments, dust removal) and then printed as an inkjet print – in this case on Canson Photographique paper.
The photograph was made at Honeymoon Bay, Croajingolong National Park, Victoria, using FP4+ 4 x 5 film with an orange filter. The camera was a Zero Image 4 x 5 with a ‘focal length’ of 25 mm, a pinhole size of 0.18 mm giving an of aperture of f138.