This week I took my Ondu multi-format pinhole camera on a walk around Newcastle upon Tyne and shot a roll of Ilford FP4+. I set the camera to take 6*12 images, which gives just 6 shots, but I was happy to take just one camera and used just the one roll of 6 images.
I started with a few shots around the bottom of Dean Street, now far from the Tyne Bridge:
I went in to the Side Gallery nearby, which has been putting on free exhibitions of documentary photography for donkey’s years. According to their website,
“Side is dedicated to showing the best in humanist documentary photography: rich, powerful and challenging work engaged with people’s lives and landscapes, telling stories that often get marginalised, whether they are from the North East of England or anywhere else in the world. “
The style of photography shown at The Side has little in common with the subjects that I choose to photograph, but as a consumer of photography I always find their exhibitions interesting, and memorable long after the last pretty sunset on Instagram has been forgotten.
The exhibition I saw was “Small Town Inertia” by J A Mortram.
“For over eight years J A Mortram has been photographing the lives of people in his home community of Dereham, a small town in Norfolk. His photography explores the everyday lives of people struggling to survive in an era of welfare cuts, diminished local government resources and an overburdened health sector.”
If you can’t get to Newcastle, you can see the content of the exhibition on Jim Mortram’s site.
After viewing the exhibition I climbed Dog Leap Stairs:
.. which led to the Black Gate and Newcastle Castle. Despite giving it’s name to the City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Castle has a surprisingly low profile as a visitor attraction. This was only the second time I’d been inside despite having lived in the area all my life. Maybe that’s because of the 150 or so steps needed to get to the top … but once you are there it does give good views over “The Toon”:
I still find that pinhole photography is a bit hit and miss compared to lens-based photography. Framing the image without a viewfinder is difficult and I cropped the last two images to remove an excess of sky. So having 5 out of 6 images that I wasn’t ashamed to put on my blog is a relatively good “keeper rate”.
What about the sixth image? Well, that was a dud. I tried to take an image of a dark alleyway at the entrance to the Side Gallery. Two passers-by were worried about getting in the image but I explained that I would be quite happy to have a ghostly image in the shot. One of them had a pinhole camera herself. The main problem was that I got to the end of a 3.5 minute exposure and realised the shutter was covering the pinhole. Thinking that I had forgotten to open the shutter (it’s the wooden bar you can see in the image of the camera, at the start of this post), I repeated the process – and the shutter dropped over the pinhole during the exposure. So now I need to have a look and see if it is possible to tighten the screws which must hold the shutter in place from the inside of the camera.