We interviewed artist Douglas Nicolson, asking about his work with pinhole photography and other alternative photography processes.
Douglas is Artist In Residence at The Double Negative Darkroom in Hackney.
Why/when did you begin to get involved in pinhole photography?
At art school I had played around with pinhole but it was a couple of years ago when I was staying in Mocambique that I picked it up again. I found a supplier of black and white chemicals in Maputo so thought it was a good opportunity to experiment with pinhole as I didn’t have an enlarger.
Douglas Nicolson – Pinhole – Igreja De Santo Antonio Da Polana, Maputo, Mocambique
I showed some work at a photography night that the Franco Mocambique Centre was running in maputo. this led to a gallery exhibition and running pinhole photography classes at the Mocambique Art School and partnering with Escola Melhor, a local NGO and the primary school they support.
Douglas Nicolson- Setting up a darkroom and wet area in the staff room of primary school, Maputo, Mocambique
Douglas Nicolson – Contact printing frame with defused and red light. Art School, Maputo, Mocambique.
Douglas Nicolson – Making shoe box pinholes with shutters, Art School, Maputo, Mocambique.
Douglas Nicolson – Wet area and shoe box pinholes with shutters in background, Art School, Maputo, Mocambique
Douglas Nicolson – Getting ready to make photograms with beach finds. primary school, Maputo, Mocambique
I like the DIY aspect of pinhole. To make a positive print, I used a piece of white shampoo bottle to diffuse a 15w bulb in a gaffer-taped cardboard box with another bulb painted red to use as a safe light. It was difficult to find darkroom equipment locally, so I had to make my own!
Douglas Nicolson – Pinhole – Participants photogram image of beach finds
Douglas Nicolson – Participant Pinhole Image
What kind of pinhole camera do you use?
I wanted to make something a little more portable with the ability to take multiple images to enlarge from, so I made a pinhole camera that can take and wind 35mm film. I have often used colour film with this camera.
Douglas Nicolson – 35mm RollFilm Pinhole Camera
Douglas Nicolson – Pinhole Portrait on 35mm, Interior, 2 Hours
Do you practice any other alternative photography processes?
I got into alt printing process through experiments with the cyanotype process and have attempted platinum and carbon.
Douglas Nicolson – Cyanotype printing booth in a market stall
At present I mainly shoot Wet Plate Collodion and either show the plates or take contact prints from them. I thought wet plate would be a good way to get back in to taking portraits again. I enjoy the slowness of the process and the randomness of the people I meet when I take out my bicycle trailer wet-plate darkroom.
Douglas Nicolson – Bicycle trailer wet plate darkroom
Douglas Nicolson, Wet plate collodion – Amy the Sheep and handler Roger. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, London
If I’m making enlargements I like the quality that lith developing brings to the final print.
Could you say more about the piece; Indian Ocean, Mocambique?
I work with a lot of different community groups and often I give the camera to workshop participants to represent themselves. At the time, I was reading a lot about the ethics of representation so I was having a bit of an ethical dilemma towards taking photographs of people.
Because of this, I chose to point my camera outwards, towards the wonderful coastline. I became fascinated by the motion of the water over time and the amazing light in Mocambique.
Douglas Nicolson, Pinhole – Indian Ocean, Mozambique
Douglas Nicolson – Pinhole – Fishing boats, Maputo, Mocambique
Douglas Nicolson – Pinhole – Cape Of Good Hope, South Africa
Is the material nature of the analogue process something that is significant within your work?
I enjoy tinkering and the craftsmanship involved when you begin to make your own cameras and experiment with chemicals. The act of making an image becomes a significant and enjoyable part of the process for me. The materiality of the substance is not a main concern in the final work, although it is often present.