Discovering light

7 February 2019

Last year, The Real Photography Community Interest Company based at the community darkroom at the St Pauls Learning Centre was awarded funds by The Ogden Trust to deliver ‘Discovering Light’ science workshops to local inner-city primary schools in Bristol including Glenfrome, Millpond, Cabot and Easton schools in and around St Pauls.

In autumn 2018, 120 students attended workshops to learn about the science of light, and to create ‘Actual Reality’ camera obscuras and pinhole cameras. Each school who took part in the project received several resources including a ‘room size’ camera obscura kit and Justin Quinnell’s book Discovering Light written to assist teachers with teaching light in the classroom.

Each student took home a pinhole camera and the knowledge they needed to take an image of the sun crossing the sky. This month, students, teachers, friends and family gathered at St Pauls Learning Centre for the big reveal; the unique pictures were on display at a celebration exhibition where guests could also take part in some fun hands-on activities from The Real Photography Company, the Institute of Physics and Bristol University.


“The children were all given a three-month exposure pinhole camera which they either took home or installed at their school,” explains project organiser, Justin Quinnell. “The cameras were all taken down on winter solstice (December 20) and the images scanned from the photographic paper ready for display at our recent event. I was really impressed by the images, and by the enthusiasm of the children!

“Over 50 of the images came out with some showing the roof of the school, trees, allotments and windows, all with the sun passing overhead for two months. Some images also have reflections from where cars were positioned reflecting the sun for the time they were parked in view.”

“It was fantastic to see the photos the children had created with their pinhole cameras,” agrees Clare Harvey, Chief Executive of The Ogden Trust. “Creativity is critical to good science and this project has given them the opportunity to explore light in lots of different ways.”

Glenfrome School

The Real Photography Community Interest Company has been set up in Bristol to revive and refresh optical science and the wonders of light through photographic related experimentation. They aim to embrace science, chemistry, optics, astronomy, history, recycling, ICT and photography with skills and resources provided to be of long-term use.

"We grow up in an era of digital image and perception, living in the virtual rather than the real,” explains Justin. “Educators and children are bombarded with commercially driven ‘answers’ to provide wonder, however there are many affordable experiments mixing old and new technologies which can open up the wonder of light to people who may otherwise believe perception can only be viewed with digital screens and downloaded apps. We aim to give insight and knowledge to individuals and a sense of history within their city where in 1803 Humphrey Davy and Thomas Wedgewood met up and invented the first photographic process”.

St Pauls is an area of high unemployment and deprivation so many of the activities are offered free of charge, targeting local schools and community groups.

Cabot School
Cabot School

Image on right by Evergreen School.

  • Share