James Guerin

Hi Pinholista, please introduce yourself

Hi! My name is James Guerin, I’m from Limerick in Ireland and  live in the west of France near Nantes. 42 (eek!) and married with 2 kids.

Tell us a little about the type of pinhole photography you enjoy

I like to shoot pinhole on film and the odd time paper too. In the beginning (2005) I played around with digital but quickly found that ‘size matters’ in the pinhole world and digital sensors just don’t have the real estate to compare with film. I shoot both black and white and colour and use a variety of self built cameras. I home develop everything I shoot and I enjoy that part of the process too. I like to go and explore places with my camera. Towns and cities or the coast. I look for shapes and compositions first and worry about light afterwards. Most of my work occurs in winter and my images are probably full of introspection… but I like to just make the pictures and not ask the questions. The experience of taking the pictures is as important to me as the images, and that is where the pinhole shines. It’s as raw as photography gets. Admin’s note, I think for many Pinholistas (at least for me…and so I generalise) the process of making the image is really important. Its a way to escape the everyday grind, and I find that vital.

Do you ever shoot anything a little more unusual?

Yes I do like to experiment. In fact I think my work is an endless series of experiments. I’m shooting alot of X-ray film lately as you can get it cheaply in crazy huge sizes (though 8×10’’ is as big as I’ve gone so far). You can also develop it in regular B&W chemistry and under a red light too so  it’s really forgiving exposure wise. Under-expose and you can just let it sit in the developer long enough and an image will appear.

Regarding unusual cameras I’ve built a multi cell pinhole camera that’s a lot of fun (as featured on the Phoblographer) but I mostly shoot ultra-wide angles and curved film plane panoramic cameras. Admin’s note, not just fun but stunning!

Do you use off the shelf cameras, home-made or a mix?

I’ve actually never shot a pinhole camera that I didn’t make. I only shoot my own cameras. Not only the RealitySoSubtle cameras that I make and sell (shame-less plug!) but I have a few others too, the ones that had led to the designs that I sell. Maybe that means that I do shoot off the shelf cameras? :)

What’s your favourite camera to use and why?

I couldn’t pick one really. It depends on where I’m going. If I’m shooting in a city I’d want a wide angle 120 film 6×6 or 6×9 but if I was going somewhere quiet to shoot landscape I’d take my 8×10’’ pinhole with 4 or 5 double dark-slides loaded up with x-ray film. I don’t like it when I have more than a dozen or so cameras at any one time – it’s starts to bother me when I don’t use them so I move them on. Admin’s note, if only I had such discipline – I refuse to count!

How long have you shot pinhole?

In 2005 a friend introduced me to it and the great F295 forum. I was round his house for dinner and we were talking photography and he showed me the body cap he had made for his DSLR, I had a few goes with it and that was it. I was completely hooked. Around that time I got involved with the f295 site which was buzzing with enthusiastic pinholers and great people. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about pinhole photography has been discussed on that site.

Why did you start shooting pinhole and why?

I just loved it from the get go. It’s magic. Once you scratch the surface you can keep digging into an endless world of imaging possibilities. You can keep it simple if you like or you can science the ‘shit out of it’!

You’ve given us a few images to share, tell us about them

The first one is a diptych slit-scan pinhole image of my wife and our dog, she was then pregnant with our daughter. I had her pass the camera a few times while I cranked the film winder so I the film was moving during the exposure. These were the 2 best ‘frames’. There was fair bit of maths needed to make these crude photos. The camera was an old German folder that I modified into a pinhole camera and then placed a 1mm wide slit behind the pinhole. These pinhole ‘slit-scans’ led to a near obsession with creating ‘perfect’ slit scans with a 35mm SLR… a story for another day.

The one of me on the bike with my shadow was made with a 6×6 I made from a kiev back. That one had a cool Polaroid mp3 shutter and I was experimenting with ‘fast’ pinhole.. I shot a lot of neopan 400 pushed to 1600 at 1/15th and 1/30th of a second.

Then there’s the 8×10’’ multi-cell images that I shot a shoe-box camera.

The square photo of the tree (I love trees!) is from my latest camera, a 24mm 6×6 camera with a built in 52mm filter ring. This photo was made with a 3 minute exposure using an ND32 filter.

There’s a couple 8×10” pinholes there (both shot on X-ray film) – one of the statue of ‘Sammy’ on the beach at Saint Nazaire and another of a ‘Super-grip’ logging machine in the La Garvre forest.

The remainder are some 6×17 panoramic images that I shot in Clare (Ireland), not far from ‘home’.

Do you shoot individual images or do you work within themes or on projects?

I tend to shoot individual images or sets of images. I don’t give this much thought really… I should. I spend too much time thinking about cameras and not enough about images! Admin’s note, this is something I’ve been pondering a lot recently – I kind of feel I should be shooting themes but I’m not sure I have the discipline.

Have you ever exhibited your work?

I’ve never had an exhibition of my work but I’ve had my cameras and some of my images featured in books and magazines. An exciting project I’ve recently been involved in is ‘New Photodynamism’.

Tell us about a great pinhole photographer.

Nicolai Morrisson – not sure if he’s even shooting pinhole anymore but this set on Flickr is just amazing and I keep coming back to it.

Do you shoot other styles of photography?

Yes, I spend way too much time on my slit-scan camera and trying to perfect the mechanics of it. The images from it look nothing like ‘reality’ and this is something that I love about photography. If you want to have a look at these you can find them here on my Flickr.

I’m also doing battle with an eighty year old Kodak Panoram 3a swing lens camera that I’m trying to get to shoot 4×10” negatives, I’m nearly there! I have regular cameras too and shoot them every so often but I love the odd-balls.

Assuming you do shoot other styles, do you prefer pinhole and if so, why?

I do prefer pinhole. It’s simple and the gear is light and uncomplicated. Also, you’re never looking through a camera so you remain ‘present’ and connected to your surroundings. I like that a lot. You only have two things to think about, where to point the camera and how long to expose for. That’s it.

Finally, where can people see your work, do you have a website?

You can see my work on my Flickr feed, my Instagram, and you can find my cameras here.

Admin’s note, as always this work is the copyright of the Pinholista, in this case James Guerin. Please respect that or we will Science the Shit out of you. As ever, if you’d like to be featured on Pinholista then please get in touch.

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