Pinholes, photos and new perceptions

5 November 2018

Pupils from one of the most deprived areas of Bristol have been enjoying the opportunity to get 'hands-on' with light in a series of five half-day workshops delivered by The Real Photography Company and funded by a grant from The Ogden Trust. During September and October, 127 Year 5 and 6 pupils from four different local schools came along to the St Paul's Community Darkroom to 'Discover Light'...

The sessions started with a short introduction to light and how images are formed. Pupils then set to work converting cardboard cereal boxes into 'actual reality' camera obscuras, through which they could observe the scenes around them, but from a rather unusual angle! More camera obscuras were available for the children to experiment with, including a giant one made out of a sheet with a secret spy-hole onto the street outside, and some enormous wearable 'eye-scuras' which they could put on their heads to experience the world turned upside down and back-to-front!

As workshop leader Justin, explained: "It's great to have the opportunity to show them images appearing in a darkroom environment and see their excitement at spotting a seagull on the large obscura sheet."

Cardboard cereal boxes become 'actual reality' camera obscuras
Cardboard cereal boxes become 'actual reality' camera obscuras

The group then had the chance to take a rather unusual 'selfie', using a pinhole camera made out of a drinks can. The biggest challenge was staying absolutely still for a whole 20 seconds so enough daylight could be reflected from their faces to get through the tiny hole in the can and hit the special light-sensitive paper. Further patience was rewarded in the darkroom as they all watched the developing tray carefully in the dim red light to see their images appear right before their eyes!

Turning the world upside down with camera obscuras
Turning the world upside down with camera obscuras

Some of the Year 6 pupils from Glenfrome commented: "We all had a brilliant time learning about light. I was amazed by how our photographs came out – I didn't think you could use a tin to make a camera. Also, I enjoyed upgrading my cereal box, I've been using my camera obscura at home, it's like a smartboard screen."

At the end of the session each pupil went away with a pinhole can camera of their very own, loaded with long-exposure photographic paper, for them to put up at school or home. When installed pointing at the sun and left until Christmas they will (hopefully) create a 'solargraph' image showing the sun tracking across the sky over those three months.

Afterwards, the science lead teacher from Evergreen Primary Academy said: "Thank you so much for our trip on Thursday. The children had an amazing time. They ran out of class at the end of the day, obscuras in hand desperate to explain to their parents what they were. They also talked about it to other pupils in assembly."

The workshops were led by Justin Quinnell, Wendy Leocque and Ruth Jacobs from The Real Photography Company and the schools participating were Evergreen Primary Academy (formerly Millpond Primary School), Glenfrome Primary School, Cabot Primary School and Easton CE Academy.

A celebration event will be held at the St Paul's Community Centre on Monday 4 February 2019 where the pupils' long-exposure pinhole photographs will be revealed to them and their families.

Pinhole camera 'selfie'
Pinhole camera 'selfie'



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