The uncertainty principle

As my stay in Pietrafitta nears an end, my attention turns again to pinhole photography. Of all the processes I’ve undertaken here, this is the most unpredictable.

I was introduced to pinhole by artist Rebecca Strain while on a residency several years ago.
At that time, we used drink cans and coffee tins as makeshift cameras.
I was immediately captivated – the idea that a moment could be made tangible using just light, a container and light sensitive emulsion, seemed like alchemy.

For the Pietrafitta residency I have come armed with an Ilford camera obscura in which I shall expose directly onto photographic paper. Without the aid of a light meter, exposure times are to a large extent guesswork with many variables to consider.
A tripod is improvised from a stool, boxes and books.

Lacking a darkroom to process the prints in situ, I have no images on which to assess, adjust and recalculate exposure times. This is in contrast to the cyanotypes and Polaroids which have been instantly accessible.
On return to Derry I’ll be developing the photographs, which I look forward to with both excitement and trepidation.

Conversations with Paola as to whether or not I should have digital back up has reaffirmed my commitment to be true to my initial premise, that of adhering exclusively to analogue technology while on the residency.

It is fundamentally about a shift in mindset and methodology. Watching a trapeze artist perform without a safety net, the inherent risks heighten the experience and hold you in the moment. Whatever the outcomes of my photographic experimentation, many images and encounters will be stored away in the mind’s eye.

Meanwhile, an iconic Olivetti manual typewriter has come into my hands, kindly on loan from Marisa, Paola’s sister. Evenings spent tap-tapping at the keys meld into the village soundscape – cicadas, birdsong, the occasional scooter, car and tractor, hammering, sawing, sweeping and the tolling of the church bells.


Polaroid and cyanotype images by Sue Morris
Digital images by Paola Bernardelli