Pinhole Film Swaps

We’re all well aware of the internet’s ability to bring together creative like-minded people from across the globe. Personally I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with numerous talented photographers who have inspired and motivated me to cultivate my own artistic abilities. One group of particularly devoted individuals existing on the fringes of the photography world, has played a huge roll in my development as a photographer. I’m of course referring to pinhole photographers, those few among us who continue to turn a blind eye to the world of digital photography choosing instead to practice their craft in the most simple of forms. Utilizing a light-proof box with a small hole in one side, which allows light to pass through exposing the film within.

Logistically unable to meet in person, one of the ways my fellow pinhole photographers and I interact is through film swaps. The talented Alex Yates has championed the movement creating a Flickr group dedicated to the process. Each participant exposes a roll of film, mailing it to the other, who then re-exposes the film a second time. No exposure details are shared, allowing for a truly unique photographic experience.

The unpredictability of cooperative double exposures are such that quite often the results are less than predictable, and quite often indecipherable. Yet thats the beauty of film swaps, it forces the photographer to release total control. Far to often photography is seen as a medium of perfection. Crystal clear, blemish free images celebrated for their perceived flawlessness. More often than not however, its the imperfections in a photograph which provides its charm and character. Pinhole film swapping flourishes in such chaos, and on those rare occasions when aspects of both photographers handy work blend seamlessly together, one can’t help but marvel at the magic of it all.

The Amazing Traveling Pinhole Camera with postcard from one of its stops along the way.

I’ve personally had the pleasure of participating in a film swap with three talented individuals to date, the already mentioned Alex Yates, Herschel Pollard, and Jesús Joglar. Currently I’m also participating in a much more ambitious project dubbed The Amazing Traveling Film Swap. 12 different pinhole photographers from around the world will use the same cardboard camera to expose two frames each, mailing it to the next participant. Half-way through its journey the film will be rewound and double exposed. Eventually the camera will make its way back to Alex Yates, the organizer, who will develop, scan, and post the resulting images online. I can’t wait to see how the photographs turn out.

If you are interested in participating in a pinhole film swap, or perhaps a Holga film swap, send me an email. I’m always interested in working with fellow photographers in such a creative way.

Arms Embrace
Co-Creator: Jesús Joglar
Series: Barcelona y Seattle

The Forest City
Co-Creator: Alex Yates
Series: Transatlantic

Co-Creator: Herschel Pollard
Series: Seattle via Nashville


About jsodphotography

Seattle based film photographer. Recording light through a pinhole, Holga, and various 35mm cameras.
This entry was posted in Film Photography, Pinhole and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Pinhole Film Swaps

  1. pjbrez says:

    Brilliant! I do some double exposures from time to time, but I’ve never been involved in a film swap before. I’d love to give it a shot with either a Holga or pinhole ( I’ve got the Holga Pinhole Wide ).

  2. jesusjoglar says:

    What can I tell you but fully agree with you!!
    I really like the way you write about photography in a wide sense and, particularly about pinhole. I enjoyed a lot doing the film swap with you; from my side the result was far from what I expected even though the b&w roll didn’t work as well as the color one (we have to try again!!!).
    Thank you so much for considering me a “talented individual”. I find these collaborations incredible creative and challenging and I am also open to pinhole film swaps!!!

    • Thanks for the kind words. It was a pleasure doing a film swap with you and I’d be more than happy to swap rolls again sometime. I actually have the Amazing Traveling Pinhole camera set to mail off to you, hoping to make it to the post office on Wednesday.

  3. kiwiskan says:

    A fascinating conversation. I’m becoming drawn to the concept of pinhole photography. Do you need to be able to develop your own film?

    • The short answer is – No, you don’t have to know how to develop film. I personally have a lab do it for me.

      Of course there are some variables to consider, most pinhole photography is shot on medium format film (though 35mm cameras are available) which is harder to have developed as many drug store type labs won’t handle it anymore. I’m lucky enough to have a professional lab in my city that still develops. Otherwise I’d have to mail it out somewhere. If your interested in trying your hand at pinhole photography I’d suggest a Holga pinhole (35mm or medium format), or a Zero Image their cameras are more expensive but beautiful and well built.

  4. Alex Yates says:

    Hi Jeff, another great write up, like Jesus I am honoured to be called a “Talented individual” , I wish I could write with your skill. For anyone interested in swapping I can only encourage it, it’s great fun and can be really surprising. Head on over to the Flickr group and leave us a message (or of course contact us directly).

  5. Great post Jeff!
    I have done three swaps, and it is fantastic! Mixed results, but one or another great double.
    I sure would love to do a pinhole swap, but I just want to get a bit more used to pinhole first. Still waiting for my Zero Image 2000…. (I wonder if it has to swim across the ocean itself….)
    I have both Holga Pinhole and Diana Pinhole, so I’m training on them while waiting…
    See you on Tree Tuesday! 🙂

    • I know from personal experience that the Zero Image 2000 can float (I accidently dropped it in a river once). Once your comfortable with shooting pinhole images, let me know I’d love to do a film swap with you.

  6. yeah man, you know you can count me in for a swap anytime! Good to know teak wood floats, I guess 😉

    Lighthouse! You will love your zero image! I am using the zero image 612B and just love it.

  7. gretchen says:

    I think doing a film swap sounds like a wonderful idea. I did one with myself where I exposed a roll at the beach, rewound it, and then exposed at Mt Hood. It was interesting. I had no idea what I would get because I decided not to make notes. Doing it with another person sounds even better.

    • Ohh! I’ve been wanting to do a project similar to that. Ocean vs. Mountain. More specifically I’ve been pushing around the idea of doing it in Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks.

      If your interested in doing a film swap let me know. I’m always looking for more opportunities.

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