Pinhole photography

A lifelong interest in photography and pottery come together for me with ceramic cameras. Here are a few pages that show a step by step method for making a ceramic pinhole camera that uses black and white photo paper for a negative.

There are countless possibilities in the construction of the camera. In these examples I'm using an altered, wheel thrown form, but a hand built or slip cast form would work just as well. Likewise with the surface textures, patterns and glazing. Use your imagination, and have some fun with experimentation.

I usually work in high temperature stoneware clay. Low fire earthenware clay, porcelain, raku, smoke fire all have great potential. The only real stipulation is that the camera is light tight — the lid and all of the joints have to be tight enough that no light at all can enter into the camera, only the light from the pinhole should reach the negative.

The film used in the ceramic camera is actually a piece of photo paper. This makes a large negative that is scanned and inverted into a positive image. The camera in this how-to example uses a 4 x 5 inch piece of photo paper. This is a convenient size, since photo paper is often sold in 8 x 10 sheets that can be cut up (in a darkroom!) to make four negatives per sheet. I also use 5 x 8 inch negative ceramic cameras.

This is page one of four.

step one
Step one Throw a cylinder on the wheel. This cylinder is just walls, it has no floor or bottom. Although the dimensions don't have to be exact, I usually try for a form about 15 cm tall, with an inside diameter of about 21 cm. A hand built, non-thrown form works just as well if you prefer hand building. After the form is thrown it should be set aside for a while to stiffen up slightly.

step two
Step two Form the cylinder into a rectangular shape. It should have inside measurements of roughly 18 cm in width, and 15 cm in depth. The dimensions don't have to be exact, just so long as the inside depth of the camera from front to back is in the 13 to 15 cm range.

step three
Step three Roll out a slab of clay and attach your rectangular box to it so that your camera now has a bottom. Do a thorough job of attaching the box to the slab on the inside to keep out light leaks.

step four
Step four Attach feet to the underside of the slab bottom. This is optional, but it gives the camera a better look to have it standing up on the feet at the four corners. Here the feet are made from L-shape slabs that have been attached and smoothed into the underside of the slab bottom.

Here are the next four steps

Pinhole Camera Photography Home Page
Steve Irvine
R.R. # 2
Wiarton, Ontario
Canada N0H 2T0
(519) 534 2175