Saturday, May 28, 2022

Late Medieval Pinhole Photography

I recently watched a video from the National Gallery in London on the early 14th century painting Healing the man born blind by Duccio.  The message of the talk was the narrative nature of late medieval painting and the wonder of miracles, but all I could see was the cityscape in the background with it's perfectly parallel verticals. It looked just like the product of a camera with a rising front.

To seize the inspiration, I loaded two cameras with rising fronts. The Variable Cuboid with the 35mm front since it did such a good job as a closer after Pinhole Day, and Long John Pinhole since I was so impressed with it's new Gilder Electron Microscope Apertures. The different angles of view - 81° with the Cuboid and 28° with Long John - should result in recognizably different images. In most of these it is obvious, but on some it's hard to tell - and I'm not going to tell you.

What caught my attention with this one was the line of impregnable bollards protecting the front of the Teen Center of the Boys and Girls Club. This isn't some loading zone where trucks may back up badly, it's the regular parking area. Maybe they're worried about new drivers putting the car in drive instead of reverse when they're leaving.  There are certainly dangers in America where this wouldn't be any protection at all.

As well as me being influenced by the painting, St. Mary's (now Blessed Sacrement) is also inspired by the 14th century. It was built in 1886 when Oshkosh was the new hot-shot boom town and they expected it to be the diocesan cathedral, but the bishop stayed in Green Bay. A few people have told me recently that my photographs remind them of the 1950's. I'm almost surprised that's not a '58 Pontiac parked next to it on Monroe Street.

Just across the street, a large apartment complex with a glass block grin I couldn't resist.

Probably the doors train passengers went through to get out to the platform.

Unless you're in the utility truck business or military, Oshkosh B'Gosh is probably why you've heard of Oshkosh. It might be embroidered on your kid's chest. They moved to Atlanta in the 90's. They have an outlet store by the highway and I'm not sure what is still in the old world headquarters downtown.

A nice composition of doors, windows, stairs and air conditioners. While I was setting up, a very fit young man with a trim beard and a tight t-shirt came out and asked me what I was doing. Before I finished telling him I was taking a photograph, he said "OK, I just wanted to make sure you weren't doing anything malicious" and went back in. I wonder if he would have been concerned if I had a Hasselblad on the tripod? Is brown cardstock threatening?

There's a big hill the developers left just behind this old carpet factory converted into apartments. I could get half way up on that and have a level camera without using the rising front.

The aforementioned berm. I think they put it here to modify the sound from the railroad just to the right which is loud from our house five blocks away.

The back of Schultz's Pharmacy, a long time fixture of downtown which closed suddenly without warning last month. I was only in there once.

The corner behind the buildings on Main and the buildings on Waugoo Avenue.

The following day I spotted Doctor Benzie's from two blocks away with it's metal roof looking like an alien communication device. About once a month we get a pizza delivered from there, but I've never been inside.

I've photographed almost exactly this same scene before with the 200mm front on the Variable Cuboid, but the clouds and the hazy sunlight got me again.

The public recreation gym, originally built for the Oshkosh High School.

As I was setting up next to the stop light at the busy corner of 9th Avenue and South Main for a picture I ended up not taking, a young man in a red pickup rolled down his window and asked me if that was a pinhole camera. I said "Yes it is." The light changed and he drove away.

Oh, look! A giant machine sticking out of a factory.

Somewhere I read that fully diffused light was good for subtle textures.

This Victorian fire station on the south side always frustrates me because it's surrounded by wires and other buildings and is too close to the street to get with even a wide angle camera.

The 35mm front on the Variable Cuboid has a .25mm pinhole on a continuously adjustable rising front. Long John Pinhole has two .40mm Gilder Electron Microscope Apertures 120mm from the film, one on the axis and one 10mm above it. Both have 6x6cm frames. The film is 100 semi-stand developed in Caffenol.

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