Jesús Joglar on his love for ‘solargraphy’ interviewed by Kev Byrne early May 2016.
KB: Jesús, on your website you say that ‘Pinhole photography makes you think before shooting‘, In what way?
JJ: Usually what you know of a given pinhole camera are its characteristic data like the f/value which is determined by the focal length and the pinhole diameter and the format of the light-sensitive material being either paper or film. Pinhole cameras don’t have a built-in light meter to automatically measure the lighting conditions or a viewfinder to help you when framing your photographs. This means that you need to make some calculations about the exposure time and carefully point your camera so you frame what you try to get in your photograph. Also the “shutter” is a bit different from those usually found in lens cameras.
KB: Interesting! This capturing of photography without using a viewfinder/screen is fascinating. A lot of luck and surprises I’m sure! I understand that Esteban Pastorino Diaz also does that too – as he recently told me in an interview. So, Jesús , this style is obviously a very long way away from the snapshot, right?
JJ: Oh, indeed. By definition a snapshot is “an informal photograph, especially one taken quickly by a hand-held camera”. The f/number of a pinhole camera generally has a value around 100 or bigger and, of course depending on the film (or paper) speed, the exposure times are longer than those of a lens camera. This means that the camera has to be firmly placed to avoid moving it while opening the pinhole to let the light go in (unless you look for that effect on purpose).
KB: F/100+? Amazing. So the exposure times are clearly longer than normal photography, but what other differences are there?
JJ: In addition to what is stated above, geometry is a very important characteristic of the a pinhole camera. In common lens cameras the film is a flat surface in front of the lens. Pinhole cameras can be made in very different shapes being a box the simplest one. But they can also have curved plane focal planes or being cylindrical with the pinhole in the lateral surface or even in one of the cylinder bases (what will make an anamorphic camera). All of these “variables” make pinhole cameras a different way of looking at photography and increasing immensely the creativity potential.
KB: Yes, I agree – it seems to reveal amazing views of the unseen universe that surrounds us (as Michael Wesely has done), truly amazing stuff! Sorry, going back to the first question, can we infer that you believe that most people subsequently do NOT think before pressing the shutter release?
JJ: Not at all! Of course most people think a lot before making their photographs. My statement is not a criticism on the use of lens cameras, either analogue or digital ones. I also use both kinds of cameras too. What I mean is that a viewfinder and a built-in lightmeter helps you to make pictures in an easier and quicker way than with a pinhole camera.
KB: Ok, I see what you mean. In your bio you say that a workshop in 2009 changed your view of photography. What exactly did you discover in that workshop that changed everything for you?
JJ: The main thing I learnt was the fact that the photosensitive paper exposed for very long time using a pinhole camera (as it is used for recording solargraphs) was able to produce an image without the need of the developing process. That means that the silver halides present in the gelatin emulsion of the paper react with the light photons yielding some silver complex salts of different tonalities that can be seen under dim light conditions and scanned to a digital file and post processed with the adequate software.
This was something difficult to rationalize for a chemist like myself. It was only after I had read some old photographic texts that I realized that silver halides coated on paper under different conditions showed a characteristic behavior under different light sources. [See, for example: J. M. Eder The Chemical Effect of the Spectrum Scovill Manufacturing Company here, New York, 1884.]
KB: That’s great, thanks! The processes and stages that create these dreamy visions of other worlds must be quite difficult, I imagine. Could you explain a little about what exactly you do with pinhole, or solargraphy?
JJ: If you talk about solargraphs, the process is not difficult. Solargraphy is a specialized form of long exposure pinhole photography that registers the sun trails as a consequence of its apparent movement related to the earth (known as “ecliptic” – as you can see with some of Wesely’s work). The image is created using home-made pinhole cameras (usually tin cans, 35 mm film canisters, etc.) charged with photosensitive paper and fixed to some point for a period of time.
It consists in applying long exposure times, from one or more days up to months or even years. Over these very long exposures the photosensitive material placed inside the camera registers changes in the tonality of the emulsion as the light strikes it, both directly from the Sun or by reflection from other elements. Initially white or yellowish depending on the paper used, it gives rise to an observable image without the need of any chemical treatment (development and/or fixing). The image looks like a geometrically inverted (that is, upside down and left to right) negative presenting different brown, ochre or red tonalities only visible under a red or faint light to avoid it gets foggy.
KB: That sounds simply amazing!
JJ: It is! Once the exposure is done and the cans are collected I use to open them in a room with dim light to scan the image. You don’t need to develop nor fix the image, simply digitize it with a scanner to obtain a digital file and process it as you would do with any other photography. The idea is that the scanner makes a single pass over the image without stopping to avoid lines due to the scanner light. This is related to the computer memory, the software and the resolution of the scan. For me, the most interesting part of this process is that, when removing the paper from the can with a subdued light, the image is already observed. I imagine that, when the photons strike the emulsion, in addition to the silver cations whose electrons are excited thus jumping to higher energy levels and yielding some silver complex salts. On the other hand, the gelatin, which is a partially denatured protein, that is, an organic chemical compound containing some mineral salts and water may also have some effect.
Another important feature of the picture is that it has a brown, ocher, reddish hues. . . i.e. have color (not black as elemental silver) and the quick scan (in RGB mode) and invert the negative to positive, the colors of the solar traces and the surrounding areas are observed. Can you imagine the feeling of seeing a photo on black&white photographic paper and get a color image? It is spectacular!
KB: Beautiful. So interesting, Jesús ! A real return to the science of photography, its former chemical origins, right?
JJ: Absolutely! By the way, remember we were talking about Hiroshi Sugimoto, well a few days ago I visited here in Barcelona an exhibition of his! The works present here were Seascapes, Portraits, Theaters, Dioramas and Lightning Fields. All of them outstanding!!! I had not seen in person anything from him before and I was amazed of the quality and the different concepts he worked on. Some time ago my wife asked me about the possibility of making some pictures in cinemas with my pinhole cameras and I told her that it was a good idea but we were only to see a white screen and maybe the chairs and the movement of people while watching the film. I am thinking in this possibility now as Sugimoto’s work was done without people on the shows. Let’s see! [Jesus recently (mid June 2016) added a Sugimoto inspired shot – here]
Jesús Joglar is a scientist working in the field of organic chemistry and biocatalysis. He started to make photographs in the “analog era” using his father Contax II camera and, since then, he has been faithful to this way of making photographs.
He discovered pinhole photography by chance. Pinhole photography makes you think before making a picture and that’s the most rewarding way of making photographs.
In 2009, on the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, he attended to a workshop, in which he discovered a different way of doing pinhole long exposure shots. Everything since then has changed his way of looking at photography. He got hooked!
His main body of work lies in the field of pinhole photography and a sizeable portion of Jesús Joglar’s photographic practice is devoted to solargraphy, a specialized form of lensless photography that records the sun as it moves in continually shifting arches across the sky, resulting in thrilling images and new insights about the world around us.
Itchyi.squarespace.com. (2016). The Longest Photographic Exposures in History – The Latest – itchy i. [online] Available at: http://itchyi.squarespace.com/thelatest/2010/7/20/the-longest-photographic-exposures-in-history.html [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Kev Byrne 1971. (2016). An Interview with Esteban Pastorino Diaz. [online] Available at: https://kevinbyrne1971.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/an-interview-with-esteban-pastorino-diaz/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
light through a hole. (2014). Winter solstice [Happy New Pinholing 2015]. [online] Available at: https://jesusjoglar.net/2014/12/21/winter-solstice-happy-new-pinholing-2015/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Sugimotohiroshi.com. (2016). Hiroshi Sugimoto. [online] Available at: http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
light through a hole. (2016). light through a hole. [online] Available at: https://jesusjoglar.net/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Flickr – Photo Sharing!. (2016). Jesús Joglar. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/trasiegu/ [Accessed 10 May 2016].
Facebook.com. (2016). Facebook. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/trasiegu.trasiegon [Accessed 10 May 2016].