About two years ago now a pinhole photographer in Germany was looking for inspiration. After hunting high and low for books of pinhole photographs she was unable to find what she needed. That pinhole photographer was Larissa Honsek (Novemberkind), and after an e-mail to some of her friends and colleagues Obscura Book was born.
The call for submissions was made, and (as I understand it) thousands of entries were received, which were whittled down to a long list, and eventually to 121 photographs (11 in each of 11 themes). Both the Obscura Book team and the panel of judges that made the selection must have had an incredibly hard job to make the final selection, but what a job they have done.
But that was not the end of the story, it never is that simple. The team put out a call for crowd-funding and managed to raise the cash required to print Obscura Book, and the physical product that now exists was born. To launch Obscura Book, a two week show at Pfluger 68 in Berlin was planned featuring many of the photographs from the book (including two of my own). The show lasts until 11 February, and this is my report on the opening night.
As I wandered through the Kreuzberg area of Berlin to the gallery I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean, if you count WPPD as your barometer the number of pinhole photographers really active is probably less than 5000 (last year there were 3426 entries). If there are less than 5000 photographers could there really be much interest in pinhole photography. As soon as I arrived at the gallery my fears vanished and I was blown away by the sheer number of people in attendance. I’d estimate that probably over 200 people were in attendance, at times there was no room to move. Obviously there were a lot of locals but what was great was the number of photographers in attendance.
As well as Larissa (of course), there were photographers from elsewhere in Germany (Marcus Kaesler – look for his pinhole work under “Linsenfrei” on his site), the Netherlands (Jos van Roij and Lucas Kastelijn), the Basque country (Succubus™), Slovakia (Jozef Pajersky) and Colombia via New York (James Cathcart). Oh, and I was there from the UK! As an aside, I need to give props to Jos’ business cards, each of which came with a precision drilled 0.5mm pinhole, soon to appear in a number of cameras worldwide!
Each of the photographers has their own style and it was amazing to see the variety of work on display. The work was a mix of black & white and colour, shot both on film (including instant) and on paper. I have to admit after seeing some of the work on paper my mind has been changed, I didn’t really get it before but now I’ve seen work from some really skilled practitioners I’m sold.
The prints in the gallery were great, a few were sold on the night but that’s not really the point, the point is that the book was launched…and boy what a launch it was. If you need a single bottle to launch a ship then we launched an armada. I’d make a special point to let you know that if you are of advancing age like myself then it does not do well to try and keep pace with two young Slovaks and a couple from the Basque country. I dragged myself away at about 12:30 (am…I know, late for an old dude!) but many kept going until 06:00.
Special mention should go to Eli and Mila from the Obscura Book team who managed to get up to meet a few of us at the gallery the following day at 11:00 for a photowalk. We walked, we chatted, we shot a bit of pinhole and we had coffee and cake…what could be better after an amazing vernissage. Larissa joined us for lunch and I managed to grab some words with her and with a lot of the photographers I’d been speaking with the night before…more on that to come!
As a final note, I got my copy of the book and it’s a triumph. I guess we all knew the photography was going to be amazing but the unknown was the layout and quality of the book. Rest assured that it is fabulous, great paper, printing and superb design and typography. There’s just the right amount of white space to let the photographs sing. If you haven’t got a copy coming through the funding then I strongly recommend you get hold of one (try through the Obscura Book website). The book is a fantastic achievement and it shows what can be done when a group of people follow a dream and get the support of a great community of photographers.
Congratulations to Eli, Fine, Mila, Nadine, and of course to Larissa, you should all be really proud of what you have achieved. I’m delighted to have been able to be involved and was thrilled to be at the vernissage.
As a quick final note, all the photographs here are my copyright (and not of great quality…damn digital compact), but of course the photos on the walls of the gallery are the copyright of the original photographers…if you buy the book you’ll see them in all their glory!