Steve Irvine is a pinhole (lensless) photographer living in Wiarton, Ontario and is the February 2011 feature on www.chriskeeney.com
“I work as both a potter and a photographer. Ceramics and photography share an odd characteristic in the creative process. In both cases, the artwork is in a box at its most crucial stage of creation, and out of direct control of the artist.
When I work as a potter, the box is my kiln. During the firing, a brick wall stands between me and my work, glowing yellow hot inside. There is some simple technology to help me get a sense of what is going on in there, but mostly I have to imagine the processes at work. I have to mentally put myself inside the kiln and get a sense of what to do next, and when to finish the firing.
When I work as a photographer, the box is the camera. My pinhole cameras let me approach photography in its most simple form. The pinhole cameras have no lens, light meter, viewfinder, or automatic shutter. They are homemade from foam core board and duct tape, tin cans and fired clay. The exposures last from several minutes to several hours. Time passes perceptively as the image comes into being, and there is a sense of not so much taking a picture, as of collecting photons in the camera. Once again I have to imagine the processes at work, and mentally put myself inside the camera to visualize the image forming on the film, and to decide when the exposure is finished.
An important outcome of this approach, of imagining the result rather than controlling it, is the element of surprise at the end of the process.
When I unbrick the door to my kiln, the works I find inside are, at best, approximations of what I had planned. There are so many variables at play: the qualities of the clay, glaze chemistry and application, the path of the flame through the kiln, or perhaps a new technique being attempted. Each piece usually has some sort of surprise for me.
When I see a pinhole camera print come to life in the darkroom developer tray, it shows me a vision of reality different from what my eye saw, or mind fully visualized. I use black and white photo print paper for my negatives, and since the paper isn’t designed for this purpose it has an unusual response to the full spectrum of light that enters the camera. Photo paper is very sensitive to light at the blue end of the spectrum, and insensitive light at the red end. As well, the negative holders in my cameras are curved anywhere up to 200 degrees. Some cameras have multiple apertures, so the photographs are bent, twisted and overlapped visions of the world.
The steady stream of surprises are like bundles of new information. New information that develops what I know about technique, and new information that modifies my creative process, values and interests. This back and forth process which generates information, is an aspect of Chaos Theory, and it’s an important part of my work.
Each pot that comes out of the kiln, or photograph that develops in the dark room, is like a point in a dynamically nonlinear process. That point (or piece created) contains a great deal of information about the artist’s history, and represents the state of the creative process at an instant frozen in time. As the process progresses through time, the point moves, tracing an aperiodic orbit through the system. This orbit becomes known as the artist’s style of work.
Where has the path taken me thus far? I’m interested in seeing the way transient events play over enduring substructures. The photograph Three Point Turn shows a pattern in the snow that only lasted a few minutes, and many of the ceramic pieces have flowing glazes that are a reminder that each piece was once in a quite different state, glowing with yellow heat. I’m hoping that these are works that will invite participation and will give the viewer an option to look for a meaning of their own.
Implicit in the pinhole photography method, in which exposures may last for many hours, is an interest in seeing the deceleration of time, to extend the moment. To slow things down to the point where it’s possible to see the simple beauty of things once more.
The variety of approaches in the ceramic work flows from following the feedback loops in the creative process, where small differences in the initial conditions can lead off into some surprising pathways, trusting experience and intuition to lead the way.
Everyone knows that we learn from experience, but there may be something much more to it than just that. There is an underlying unity of process in nature’s nonlinear soul. The same universal system that slowly directs the shape of a meandering river, the pattern of a growing snowflake, or, in an instant, the pattern of a lightning bolt as it races across the sky, also shapes the flow of ideas in the creative process, and in this the artist shares many things with the fundamental natural processes around us.”
CK → I don’t know what it is, but all the Canadian people I’ve met so far in my life have been really nice to me. It doesn’t matter if I meet them In person or over the internet.. Steve Irvine is one of those friendly Canadian people. His pinhole creations really inspire me as an artist. The idea of creating a work of art that in turn is capable of helping you create more art. What a beautiful concept. Not only are his pinhole cameras artfully done, but the photographs Steve creates with them are stunning. And then to read his thoughts on creative process, puts everything into perspective for me. It reminds me that as artists we are in charge of our creative destiny by how we shape the clay in our hands now. Thanks Steve for your inspirational text and photos – it’s an honor to have your work part of this ongoing pinhole photographer series.
Title: Cape Road - 195 second exposure photograph made with homemade peanut can pinhole camera - by Steve Irvine
Title: North Keppel Cemetery - 10 minute exposure - Paper Negative photograph created with homemade ceramic pinhole camera - by Steve Irvine
Title: In Ruins - 5 Minute Exposure - Created with homemade multi-aperture pinhole camera - by Steve Irvine
Title: Laneway - 90 second exposure paper negative photograph created with multi-aperture pinhole camera - by Steve Irvine
Title: It\'s About Time - 45 second exposure made with homemade peanut can pinhole camera - paper-negative photograph- by Steve Irvine
Title: Windows - 11 minute exposure - Paper Negative pinhole photograph created with homemade multi-aperture pinhole camera - by Steve Irvine
Title: Paperweight - 20 minute exposure photograph made with multi-aperture pinhole camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Parsnip - 2 hour exposure - Photograph made with handmade ceramic pinhole camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Providence Bay - 2 minute exposure - photograph made with handmade ceramic pinhole camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Reading - 90 minute exposure - photograph made with handmade ceramic pinhole camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Rock Balancing - 90 second exposure - photograph made with homemade mulit-aperture pinhole (lensless) camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: South American Mask - 150 minute exposure - photograph made with mulit-aperture pinhole (lensless) camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Vacuum and Ether - 90 minute expsoure - photograph made with ceramic pinhole (lensless) camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Wall Sculpture - 60 second exposure - photograph made with homemade mulit-aperture pinhole (lensless) camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Ceramic Camera 1 - Handmade ceramic pinhole camera made with high fired stoneware, 24 K gold leaf created by Steve Irvine
Title: Ceramic Camera 2 - Handmade ceramic pinhole camera made with high fired stoneware, Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Ceramic Camera 3 - Handmade copper glazed ceramic camera, Created by Steve Irvine
Title: Ceramic Camera 4 - Handmade ceramic camera, Created by Steve Irvine
Homemade do-it-yourself (DIY) multi-aperture 3 pinhole (lensless) camera - Created by Steve Irvine
Steve's work kinda reminds me of Wayne Belger's pinhole creations All Photos Copyright © 2011 Steve Irvine and Reproduced by Permission