April 2 , 2008

Sac State students turn everyday items into cameras

Photo: Pinhole cameras can be made from just about anything. Pinhole cameras can be made from just about anything.

Take a covered box, poke a tiny hole in it, and it’s a camera. At least, that’s all it takes for students in Sacramento State’s pinhole photography class to produce stunning works of photographic art.

Their work will be on display in Kadema Hall’s Witt Gallery, April 28 through May 2. Gallery hours are noon to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. A closing reception will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 2.

“Any light-tight, dark chamber, such as various kinds of boxes, cans or other containers, can be used,” art professor Roger Vail says.

Light enters through the pinhole and forms an image on the film placed in the back of the box. Because there’s no glass lens, the pinhole camera offers unlimited depth of field and focus, meaning that close-up and distant images will be in sharp focus, Vail says.

But creating great photographs isn’t the only goal of the class; the students have to be creative making the cameras as well. While an old shoebox will make a decent pinhole camera, Vail’s students use materials a little more unconventional, from gasoline cans to Lego blocks.

“The assignment is to be as creative as possible in making them,” Vail says. “The requirement, of course, is that they must work.”

With the arrival of digital photography and the computer manipulation of its images, why even bother with a course such as this?

“Pinhole photography offers the photographer an opportunity to work closely with the basic elements of image formation,” Vail says.

The camera doesn’t have a viewfinder, so the photographer needs to pay close attention to camera placement. There’s no automated shutter, so the photographer also needs to consider time in exposing the film to light.

The ultimate goal, Vail says, is to increase the photographer’s ability to handle and manipulate the photographic elements. “Each student will arrive at a unique set of conclusions.”

For more information, call (916) 278-7512. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.