“Otherworldly places”: the pinhole photography of Min Enghauser

Shenandoah National Park, 2

April 27, 2014, was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, an annual celebration of the weird and wonderful things that develop when people make simple cameras and share the results. The WPPD website is accepting this year’s submissions through the end of May, which inspired us to poke around the Torpedo Factory for pinhole photos and discover remarkable examples in the studio of Min Enghauser.

“As a film shooter, I’ve always had a slow, simmering interest in pinhole photography,” Enghauser says. “It’s a slow and deliberate way of working. It requires me to relinquish control and to accept the limitations of the materials: film and a tiny hole in a bit of tin.”

For her pinhole shots, Enghauser tends to use medium-format negatives that are six inches tall and twelve inches wide, leading to dramatic, panoramic views, and her surroundings partly dictate the composition.

“Since I don’t like to carry a tripod, I look for places to prop the camera, often on the ground or the floor, on rocks, or an old tree stump,” she explains. “The materials and the unusual perspectives can make any subject extraordinary, and unpredictability reigns supreme.”

Enghauser’s pinhole-camera adventures have taken her to Shenandoah National Park, the C&O Canal, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A new locale is always an opportunity to shoot with different cameras and varying techniques, but when it comes to pinhole photography, Enghauser finds that the key to success is not to over-think it.

Eastern State Penitentiary, 2

“It’s a count-to-ten-and-see-what-happens kind of thing,” she says. “When I’m not paying close enough attention to what I’m doing, the frames have overlapped, creating one long, continuous negative, which is a challenge to scan and nerve-racking to cut.”

Even so, the resulting images can be spectacular, and Enghauser isn’t surprised that pinhole photography has attracted an international following that appreciates the rewards of experimenting with such a capricious technique.

“It surprises and delights when things go ‘wrong,'” she says. “Like any funky camera, the pinhole, by its very nature, distorts the accepted and expected reality, creating  fantasy landscapes and otherworldly places.”

Visit Min Enghauser at the Torpedo Factory in studio 309, and see more of her work at www.minenghauser.com.

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