Photo Friday: Light & Looking Before the Digital Image
September 21st 2012
Students in Jesse Nussbaum’s last period Art Elective at Dr. Martin Luther King Academic Middle School created magical new ways of looking at their surroundings through a variety of photographic experiments, including sun prints, camera obscuras, and pinhole photography. Coming of age immersed in digital cameras, pixels, and microchips, these young artists started with limited understanding of the ways natural light can combine with simple materials to create photographic images. Students were surprised to discover that not all cameras are digital and that most of the materials they needed to make their own cameras could be found in almost any trash or recycling bin.
Seventh graders, Annie Wong and Jenny Wang, created the photograph shown here using their own handmade camera. A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture– effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box onto light-sensitive paper. (Click here to learn more.) Their teacher, Jesse Nussbaum, an experienced photographer, industriously created a darkroom in her classroom to develop the photo sensitive paper and create photo positives. The positives were then processed and inverted in Photoshop to create the print you see here.
Although, this project started by looking at community waste and using photography to invite others to consider it more conscientiously, it quickly became clear the photography itself engaged the students most. It is evident from their selection of subjects, that students were repeatedly drawn to the varieties of life that bloom and grow throughout their largely urban campus where they captured ghostly and beautiful images of trees, plants, flowers, friends, and traces of themselves. These subtle and shadowed pictures offer dramatic contrast to the candy-colored and digitally manipulated images that characterize much--if not most--of their everyday visual landscape.