4×5 pinhole and the anatomy of a self portrait gown shoot

4×5 pinhole camera.


A couple of years ago at a PSPCS camera show, Mike Immel approached me. ” I have something for you”, he said while caressing a lovely chunk of what appeared to be polished lumber. See, that’s just it. This 4×5 camera makes you want to stroke it. It’s heavy, smooth and sturdy. Simple even. Anyway, sporting his usual smile, Mike held it out to me. I was dumbfounded that he would just give it away like that. I snagged a few cheap 4×5 film holders at the camera show and took this lovely pinhole camera out into the river mud. I have no history on this camera. It might be a kit, but I think it’s someone’s personal project.

The 4×5 pinhole on a Gitzo in the mud.


Signature on the front. I want to thank this person for building this camera in 1984! If anyone knows “Thiisi S Vsvjrrea”, or whoever, please tell them thanks for me!


I’m enjoying the ease of use.

Since that day, this pinhole camera has made numerous trips to the muddy banks of our local rivers. I don’t worry about river mud mucking up the mechanisms, since it doesn’t have any mechanisms.

The original pinhole was a bit large, making for some dull images. Duller even than my usual images. I made a smaller pinhole from a pie tin and swapped it out. Here, I used FPP 4×5 Frankenstein film in Rodenal developer.

Check out the initial rinse! Nearly iridescent.


Porcelain doll parts found in the mud. This was taken with the original pinhole.


Messing around with pinhole sizes. I’m hoping to put images of things found in the river mud ONTO items that I’ve found in the river mud.


Chehalis River shore, taken with the anonymous 4×5 wooden pinhole camera.
In the thick of the action.


Railroad trestle.


Rotating railroad trestle.


The 4×5 pinhole camera on a natural “tripod”. This is more my style.


Railroad trestle.

I used some of these 4×5 negs to make cyanotypes on glass pieces I had found in the rivers.

Oh! I might mention here that I find things in river mud. This is vintage glass that I’ve coated with gelatin in preparation for the cyanotype emulsion. I took an online workshop from Galina Manikova, glass artist / photographer extraordinaire.


Cyanotype on vintage river-found glass. Welllll….. I’m still perfecting my technique.
Cyanotype watch gears on glass.


Action pinholing by the river side. (Time for a selfie with a camera because I haven’t done that in a little while.)

Here are some other-than-mud shots:





Side note: The anatomy of a gown self portrait shoot.

I set up the remote strobes. Before changing into my gown, I test the lighting. Of course, it HAS to be freezing.

I set the camera to interval shooting – 20 second intervals times 30 shots. This gives me enough time in between shots to re-compose myself. Also, the strobes have definitely recycled by the next shutter firing. As the firing begins, I finish setting up.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared the outtakes before. Anyway, as the camera fires away, I figure things out. “Well, crap. I want some colored smoke.” Jeffro Uitto made me a driftwood crown that is fucking, FUCKING heavy! But I love it.


Trying to light the color smoke grenade. The whipping wind was a bit of a hindrance. Ok… I look like a stone age person, trying to invent fire.


Stone age person, inventing fire.


I like the feral hair.


Well, that didn’t fucking work. At least it finally lit. I decided to forego the color smoke. Maybe another day? A day when I have someone with me to help with this madness?


More trips are in store for us.


One Response

  1. Ooh, I like the outtakes. I don’t know why, but I’ve always assumed that you had someone with you to take the gown shots.

    Great photos all around! And I love the cyanotypes too!

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