Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why I love Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

We love to celebrate holidays at our house.  We go to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, carve numerous jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, just go nuts at Christmas, make pies on March 14, and spaghetti and meatballs on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is another reason to have a special celebration.

It sometimes seems like Pinhole Day is kind of a funny little relic of an earlier time on the internet.  I mean, the idea grew out of a post on an email list serv. The role of the Dude's rug is taken by the on-line gallery of photographs, one per participant, all taken on the same day. It was not common to be able to post photographs at all in 2001 when this started, so just sharing your work with other Pinholers was kind of a special thing.  The only rules are it must be a lensless photograph, and it has to be taken on the last Sunday in April.  This sometimes seems like a really silly criterion.  There are now millions of ways to get your work on the internet, so this restriction to one day really focuses the mission of the gallery.  I grew up when instant world-wide communication was not available to regular people.  If you had contact with someone across the globe, it was either by an expensive telegram, an very expensive telephone call, or a very slow letter. It was really special.  So this coordination of behavior of people all over the world on one day still gets to me.

The other major function of the Pinhole Day web site is to list a variety of events which people organize in preparation of, or on Pinhole Day. I have never participated in a group activity on Pinhole Day, but I have done workshops at other times of the year and they're really fun.  I like the idea that Pinhole Day gives people the excuse to set up events, especially ones that give people their first experience of pinhole photography, and in a lot of cases their only experience ever of photographic chemistry in a darkroom.  I get kind of a negative reaction when people talk about "promoting the hobby," but I get a kick out of the idea of others experiencing something I think is pretty cool. Particularly exciting are the thought of this going on in school settings.  Pinhole Photography meets a lot of learning objectives (can you tell where I spent my career) in Art, History, Math, Optics, Physics, Chemistry and Manual Skills.  Kids tend to do things together so it's collaborative. It's naturally active learning, and then the cherry on top, it's really fun.

I have fun doing it. I get off on having to come up with a great photograph on that one day.  Cold, dark and rainy? Too bad.  Shoot interiors or use an umbrella. Not inspired? Tough.  Go find something to photograph. It's got to be today.  And then, you have to pick one.  Which of these photographs do you really like?  This all gives the whole thing a bit of an adrenaline rush.  But it's not competitive at all.  Everybody gets to submit one photograph.

I also tend to pull out old cameras for the day or occasionally build a new one. Variety is the spice of pinhole, I guess.

Full disclosure - I've been on the coordinating team (of at most seven people) since about 2005.  I'm the support coordinator (I answer the emails) and now I'm coordinator coordinator, too. We review every photograph before it goes in to the gallery (People can be really weird on the internet.) It's always amazing to watch the gallery build and see the crazy variety of cameras that people use, and as noted earlier, that gallery ties the whole thing together.

I've submitted a photo in every gallery since the first one in 2001. I've got plans for several different cameras I made years ago, which I recently refurbished a little.

It's April 24th this year.  The website is .  You can list an event or put a group on the list on the form so you can sort your images together with your friends at .  The submission form for Pinhole Day images will become available on the home page on April 24th (make sure it's after midnight in your time zone), and stays available until the end of May to give you plenty of time to process your work. (Don't dawdle, it closes on an automated script, so if you miss it, it would take a lot of work to restart things).

This year the event is dedicated to Gregg Kemp who created and managed the web site until shortly before he passed away earlier this year. His contribution cannot be over stated.

I hope you have fun on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.  But you've been warned.  You could fall in love.

My submission to the first Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day in 2001.


  1. Nick - thank you for that. Pinhole day is the reason that I took up photography again after a long absence (that along with my 50th birthday) in 2004. Every pinhole day since then has been a special occasion for me - most often a group shoot in an interesting venue with good friends that I might not have known otherwise. This image is one that I have not seen before, and it is as good as any image that you have done since. A testament to the power (and to the allure) of pinhole photography.

  2. Wonderful sentiments! Thanks for your contributions to the tribe!