Some Pinholes from Civita

Some Pinholes from Civita

I spent  a month in Civita di Bagnoregio, an Etruscan hilltop town in Italy on a fellowship from the Civita Institute, ( Since I arrived home mid-December, I have been scanning and editing images. I am still not done but three days ago, finished scanning the 120 color negative film that I shot in a little pinhole camera called the Zero. It took a beating in Civita, the cobblestones, and the tuff rock outside, and the stone floors in the houses are all unforgiving.  I dropped the camera, it broke, I taped it back together and kept going. It gave me 32 rolls of film with about 190 files. I shot so that each image related to the one before or after. This was a difficult thing to do but I wanted to overlap the images so I shot with the camera on a rectangular setting and advanced it as if it were set to a square. This way I did not get any lines between the frames of the negatives–and I made 16 images to a roll instead of 12.  I could not see any of these images because the film had to be developed once I returned to the States.  Also pinhole cameras do not have a viewfinder and I had to become astute at knowing what the cameras would see. Two things helped me get great negatives: the Pinhole Assist app which enabled me to use my iPhone as a light meter and the wonderful people  at the Shot on Film Store in Lake City, WA (, who developed my film and did a great job.

So what did I photograph?  The old Etruscan hilltop town of Civita where people have lived for thousands of years:  this is what was before me.  The pinhole exposures are at least 10 seconds and no people showed up in my photos.  Mostly I photographed every morning at sunrise until about 9:30 when the tourists started to arrive.  I photographed the town, the streets (cobblestones with no cars), the landscape, the drop off at the edges of the town, the hilltop and the ancient church, the walls, the stones, the light, the fog, and of course the incredible color. (Overexposure exaggerated it). Doing this  was a joy but  made me quite nervous at the same time.  Was I getting the correct exposure?  Did I really think I could overlap the images and it would work?  With the amazing amount of wind and rain would anything be discernible?  What would the townspeople think of these images?  The town is a museum but lived in as well. It  isn’t the way it actually is became my mantra. Each day I would photograph with my Zero for a few hours, come back, eat breakfast, clean up the apartment and then go back out around noon to take some more photographs. The afternoon was more difficult with the number of tourists in the town and the light. In late afternoon I would eat some lunch, then work on the computer for a while and as soon as it got dark, go back out again and take night photographs with my DSLR.  (see previous blog post  Then a nice long Italian dinner and bed.

Now, as I scan and look and scan and look, I am slowly understanding what it was that I did.  Mixing the landscape with the architecture made sense, but it was something I had not done before.  I am posting thirteen images (including the featured image) that show the variety of the 120 pinhole images that were captured. All are from the Zero camera 120 on color negative film (except the first one, a double exposure from the 4 x 5 large format pinhole still color negative film in which I exposed the full moon outside my kitchen door all night long, then  the walkway to the entrance in the fog on the same sheet of film).   I find the editing process to be as satisfying as the shooting.  Thanks for looking.  (PS  Click on the first image to get a slide show).



The featured image is the top of the entrance to the  Altar of the Virgin Mary down off the trail by the cliffs.  Working titles of the others top to bottom, left to right are:

  1. Full moon trail and Walkway (Double Exposure/4 x 5 negative)
  2. Door
  3. Patio on the Edge
  4. San Donato #1
  5. Street, Buildings, Valley
  6. By Giovanni’s Stairs
  7. Partly Real
  8. Lions Gate with the Gate of Santa Maria
  9. An Imagined Space
  10. Arch and Fog
  11. Landscape with Buildings
  12. Walk to the Cliffs at Sunset (single image)