What’s new Pinholes Shooting a pinhole “movie” with a matchbox camera

Shooting a pinhole “movie” with a matchbox camera

Writer and photography / Lena Källberg

Is it possible to make a movie using a home built pinhole camera? Of course. Lena Källberg shows us how.

Lena Källberg
Lena Källberg

Having been a pinhole photographer for about ten years, I feel that I have really embraced the notion of “every container that can be made light tight can be made into a camera”. I have tried making my cameras from tin cans, shoe boxes, film canisters and converted bellows cameras.

It never stops thrilling me, the way each camera has its individual view of the world, a kind of slow view. As a pinhole photographer you must take your time, frame your shot using your imagination (since there is no viewfinder) and with large cameras, be patient during long exposures.

Among my cameras (and there is quite a number of them by now) my favorite ones have become matchbox cameras. This is so, mainly because they work fine (in their own sweet way) for taking pictures of moving subjects. I have found it written in many places that if you want to start shooting pinhole, find subjects that are not moving, and use a tripod! But, on sunny days, with fast film, in a matchbox camera, exposures are down to a quarter of a second, which means you can catch at least traces of moving subjects and you can use your camera without a tripod.

One of my matchbox pinhole cameras, covered in aluminum foil to keep the light out.
One of my matchbox pinhole cameras, covered in aluminum foil to keep the light out.

I have been using my matchbox cameras shooting like this for quite a while, trying to catch images of motion itself, rather than subjects.

Motobiker, 2011. Matchbox pinhole camera, Fomapan 400. Lith print on Forte Bromofort.
Motobiker, 2011. Matchbox pinhole camera, Fomapan 400. Lith print on Forte Bromofort.

I figured the next step in trying to catch motion would be to make a pinhole movie.

Of course, “movie” is not an accurate word in this case, because even with a Super-8 camera you would get 12 frames per second, and although the matchbox cameras are fast, as far as pinhole camera go, I wouldn’t be fast enough to point the camera, make the exposure and manually advance the film 12 times per second. There are ways to do this too, of course, but I decided the constraints of the matchbox camera are the constraints for this project. I decided to go for more of a slideshow kind of movie, allowing me to change the frame rate to change the rhythm of the movie.

Given these limitations, then, I made a black frame with 3:4 aspect, giving 18x24mm frames.

The 18x24mm film mask, giving up to 50 frames on a 36 roll.
The 18x24mm film mask, giving up to 50 frames on a 36 roll.

I use a little metal tongue to keep track of the frames. I always use them in my matchbox pinhole cameras, because it saves a lot of film being able to keep track of the frames, even more so for this kind of project.

The frame counter.
The frame counter.

For the subject for my movie I decided on the area around the Slussen junction, which is a run-down piece of central Stockholm, Sweden, about to be demolished in the near future. This place is never quiet and very busy most of the time; the oldest parts of it were built in the 1930’s and the future of the place is the subject of much debate.

What I did was convert two of my matchbox cameras into film cameras, and shoot both of them before returning to the darkroom for the processing. I decided on using Fuji Provia 400 film and cross process it to give a kind of dated appearance. To get the shortest possible exposure times, all of it is shot in sunlight. Each roll of film gave approximately 50 frames, and the entire movie was made from 7 rolls of film. My plans were to shoot more, but there were only about four days of sunshine in Stockholm during the summer of 2012, so that kind of set the limits for my project. The films were scanned sprockets and all, like this:

One frame from Slussen, my Friend.
One frame from Slussen, my Friend.

The result of my pinhole movie project can be seen here:
The music is based on sounds I recorded at Slussen.
You can build your own matchbox camera, with just the right size for 135mm film with the layout presented here.

Lena Källberg is in constant search of new pinhole cameras and explores different ways of capturing images.

Get the beginners’ pinhole book
Beginners guide to pinholingFrom pinhole to print – Inspiration, instructions and insights in less than an hour
by Gary Fabbri, Malin Fabbri and Peter Wiklund
From pinhole to print will guide you from drilling your first pinhole to printing your first pinhole photograph. It is an easy to read, step-by-step guide to making a pinhole camera and creating images.
The quick and easy way to learn how to build a pinhole camera!

4 thoughts on “Shooting a pinhole “movie” with a matchbox camera

  1. As a pinhole photographer, I find most things related to film or non-digital imaging interesting.
    Nice to see what different artists are doing with their photography. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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