J. M. Golding

After a bit of a hiatus, mostly done to my laziness, we finally have another featured Pinholista. I have to say that I’m really delighted to be able to feature J. M. Golding, also know on various parts of the internet as Falling Through the Lens. I’ve been privileged to do a film swap with this very talented photographer, and now you get to see some amazing work unsullied by my rather amateurish hand.

Hi Pinholista, please introduce yourself.

Hi, I’m J. M. Golding, and I live in the San Francisco Bay area.

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

My pinhole photography is exclusively analogue. I have a special fondness for black and white film, which I use for most of my pinhole (and other photographic) work. I like the way it adds an element of abstraction to an image, how the photograph becomes less a picture “of” something and more a picture-in-itself.

I also have a definite preference for cameras that use roll film – I just don’t have it in me to go to a darkroom with each sheet of paper. I mainly use medium format film, but since I made a matchbox pinhole camera, I’ve been enjoying 35mm too.

Do you ever shoot anything a little more unusual? 

Not yet, unless you count solargraphs, which I’ve made a few of. Admin’s note, I guess on this site a solargraph is not that unusual…in the big wide world however I think it might be considered as such!

Where the creek crosses the trail


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

I’m not much of a camera builder. I use a Zero Image 6×9 pinhole camera a lot. I like the ability to make photos in different formats (6×6, 6×9, and although I haven’t done so intentionally so far, 6×4.5 and 6×7). And the camera is sturdy and beautiful. People sometimes ask me if I made it, and I can only say that I wish I had.

I also use a PinHolga (Holga 120PC). One great thing about this camera is that you can use filters with it very easily. (You can attach a 46 mm filter or step-up ring by turning with a little pressure, just like with a “regular” Holga). So I can use a red filter to make the skies darker and the clouds pop, or use neutral density filters to adjust exposures when the metered exposure time is very short.

And, in spite of not being much of a camera builder, I’ve made a matchbox pinhole camera that I’m having a great time with. Excellent instructions for how to build these are at matchboxpinhole.com. It uses 35mm roll film, which works really well for me.

I’ve also made some simple cameras out of film cans and tomato cans, and used these to make solargraphs.

Oh, and I have a Zero Image 2000 zone plate camera, too, which I also love.

What’s your favourite camera to use and why?

What, you mean just one? Admin’s note, GAS seems to be a problem that afflicts many of us. With so many cameras it’s impossible to choose.

How long have you shot pinhole?

For about 5 years.

To speak your own truth

Why did you start shooting pinhole and why?

I’m an analogue photographer from way back – I never really “went digital.” I’ve been fascinated with pinhole photography ever since I first heard of it – I love the simplicity. Although it seems to me that all photography is inexplicable in a sense, there’s a special magic in creating an image using nothing but a tiny hole in what Christopher James calls “a box of air.”

I have a Kodak brochure about building a pinhole camera from a (non-pinhole) workshop that I attended around 1990. But I was pretty intimidated by the need for a darkroom, and I didn’t actually try it until I went to a Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day workshop at Looking Glass Photo in Berkeley, California, in 2009. A few months later, I saw an absolutely stunning photo called “Swirl” that Jim Rohan had made with a Zero Image 2000. When I learned that the Zero Image pinhole camera uses roll film, I decided that I had to try this camera. Later that year, I received my Zero 6×9 as a gift, and the rest was history.

I discovered zone plate photography through Paul Romaniuk’s mysterious, beautifully subjective work. I love the combination of blur and glow – it’s so dreamlike.

To discover an ocean of stillness within


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

Both. Occasionally I have an idea for a project or series and then make the photos. More often, I find myself drawn to the same subjects, or the same way of photographing, and the series emerges from the work that I’ve begun – sometimes sooner and sometimes later.

My pinhole series “Journey to the river” was published in Square Magazine. This series emerged from my fascination with photographing moving water through a pinhole, which took me to several creeks, as well as the Pacific Ocean. Because it’s so shady at one particular creek that I visited often, I found myself making very long exposures, up to 48 minutes. When I’d calculated those exposures, I found myself thinking that this would be a time for a river meditation. So I sat beside the creek, watching the water flow more rapidly in some spots and more slowly in others, and watching the trees’ reflections in the creek shimmer as an occasional breeze passed over them, and I thought about how each of the moments I was witnessing would be overlaid on the moments that had passed before, how all of these moments would combine to create the pinhole image. It also seems to me that these long exposures promote what Ruth Bernhard described as empathy with the subject, “knowing what it feels like to be a leaf.” You sit with the subject, that leaf or that creek, for a (relatively) long time.

I enjoy making series of photographs because that feels like an opportunity for deeper exploration of an experience. But I never hesitate to make an exposure because it isn’t part of a project.

Admin’s note, I think this is one of the most coherent explanations of (for me) one of the best things about shooting pinhole. Its not just about the resulting image, its about the experience when you make the image. Personally I always enjoy the process and when I see the resulting image I’m transported back to the day when the image was made. I know photography can be about catching and describing memories but its the evocation of those memories that may not even appear in the captured light that I find so rewarding.

The return of the light

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

I made “When it all fits together” using my PinHolga and Tri-X. This is part of my “Journey to the river” series. This one was only a 20-minute exposure.

“Where the creek crosses the trail” was made at another creek not far away, using my Zero Image 6×9 and Plus-X (my favorite film for many years). In the winter and early spring, the creek actually does cross the trail here, so if you’re walking on the trail, you have to ford the creek at this spot. This was a 10-minute exposure. Someone rode through it on a mountain bike at about 4 minutes.

I also used my Zero Image 6×9 and Plus-X to make “To speak your own truth,” this time during a Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day hike in 2012. I’ve been told that I make too many photos of trees, but that doesn’t seem to deter me.

Returning to my fascination with moving water through a pinhole, I made “To discover an ocean of stillness within” around sunset at Point Reyes National Seashore in 2010. In only 2½ minutes, the exposure (also using the Zero 6×9 and Plus-X) created a tremendous sense of calm.

Last summer, at another beach at Point Reyes, I made “The return of the light,” also around sunset and also with the Zero 6×9, this time with FP4+. The glow on the waves reminded me that even though the light leaves at the end of the day, it always comes back.

The last photo, “If I opened my eyes,” is a 1-second hand-held exposure using my matchbox pinhole camera and Pan-F+. One thing I’ve always liked about winter is that it’s easier to get up in time for sunrise. This past winter I decided to take advantage of that by going walking someplace beautiful at least once a week at dawn. It seemed to me that because of the vignetting, this image looked a bit like an eye, which seemed to fit with how we open our eyes in the morning (perhaps at sunrise, at least in the winter), and also with how we can see wonderful things if we open our eyes; that is, if we truly look.

Have you ever exhibited your work?

Yes, I’ve shown my pinhole photos at the 3rd and 4th Annual (or Biennial) Juried Pinhole Shows (RayKo Gallery, San Francisco), The Lensless Image (Castell Photography, Asheville, North Carolina), Pinholio (Good Citizen Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri), Time in a Can (Fundacion Diario Madrid), online in LenZless (Plates-to-Pixels), and most recently, in Obscura (Galerie Pflüger68, Berlin). Pinhole work was also included in my solo show, Transitional Landscapes and Other Mysteries  (Remedy Salon and Gallery, Emeryville, California).

My pinhole photos have been published online in Square Magazine and in the amazing book Obscura: 121 Views.

I’ve also exhibited photographs that I’ve made through (mostly plastic) lenses.

If I opened my eyes

Tell us about a great pinhole photographer.

What, just one again? If you don’t mind, I’d rather list several pinhole photographers who do amazing work, and invite you to explore. Admin’s note, this is a fabulous resource…thank you!

and these books as resources for both inspiration and information:

  • The Pinhole Camera by Brian Krummel
  • Pinhole Photography by Eric Renner
  • Obscura: 121 Views by Larissa Honsek, Mila Haegele, Fine Nitschke, Eli Uverricht, and Nadine Reienstahl

Do you shoot other styles of photography?

I love making photos through a plastic lens, using cameras like a Holga or a Diana clone. I’ve also been using a vintage Mamiyaflex C2 medium-format twin-lens reflex camera these days. And I take pictures with my cell phone, too. Admin’s note, the cell phone camera is a wonderful thing!

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

I wouldn’t say that I prefer pinhole to plastic camera photography, for example. Each has its special joys, and I’m happy that I can do both. Some photographs just seem to need a particular kind of camera to bring them into being. I think of myself as drawn more to depth (for example, lots of experience with one camera or one type of camera) than breadth, but I also feel as if I’m often trying to balance between them.

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

My work is at FallingThroughTheLens.blogspot.com.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your work with pinholista.com

Thank you for having me! I very much appreciate the opportunity.

Well, I hope you enjoyed these interview as much as I have, and are inspired by the incredible monochrome images. I’d really encourage you to check out some of the links mentioned above. As I’m sure will be no surprise, all work is copyright J. M. Golding and should not be reproduced without permission…and I know you’re cool with that!

Finally, if you’d like to be featured on pinholista.com then please do get in touch via the contact page…happy shooting!

4 replies
  1. jesús joglar says:

    Alex, this is such a wonderful post! I congratulate you for showing us the wonderful work of Jacki. I find her work sometime ago and I am “addict” to it.
    Jacki I also congratulate you for such fine photo work you do. And finally I appreciate so much that you put me in the list of “great pinhole photographers”, thanks so much!

  2. Helene Barrette says:

    I love Jacki’s work! Thanks for the link.
    I’m the proud owner of one of Jacki’s print!

  3. Moni says:

    I agree, the explanation of just sitting and meditating while making the exposure is part of why I love pinhole photography as well. What a great way of describing it!


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