Practical assignment (Research and analysis) pt.3

Practical assignment (Research and analysis) pt.3

Pick three events in the timeline from this week’s lesson History of Photography: An Introduction, and find photographs of the event on the Internet or in the library and write a paragraph explaining the event in more detail. Include your photographs in the description.

Pinhole Camera 

Pinhole camera Courtesey of eastmanhouse.

Pinhole camera Courtesy of Eastmanhouse.

Bored this Sunday? Of course you are, Sundays are terrible. How about you make a camera?

”Make a camera?!” you say ” What folly, I nary have the will nor implements to construct such a feat of technology in my humble den!”.

O hoho my friend, I duly concur that you may indeed lack the will, but the implements, why – do you have a box? A tin can? Do you have an egg? If you have any of these or anything like them, you can make a camera, I’m in no way jesting right now.

You may not believe me, but you can do it, in fact they were able to do it as early as the 11th century BC, so you virtually have no excuses whatsoever.

Ibn al-Haytham, if he can do it, so can you.

Alhazen/ Ibn al-Haytham/Ptolemaeus Secundus/ THE Physicist, if he can do it, so can you.

If you’re wondering who Ibn al-Haytham is, well he’s quite a quandry to describe. He was a polymath (also known as a Polyhistor). What is a Polymath? A polymath is someone who is fiercely adept at a wide range of disciplines. Nowadays we say ‘multi-talented’ but it’s more than that. In Ibn al-Haytham’s case he excelled and lead  in (or even in some cases created) the fields of Optics (clearly), philosophy, mathematics, the scientific method, astronomy, meteorology (we’re still trying to get that one right) and visual perception.  He literally came up with the idea of the scientific method centuries before it became standard practice. He was the father of so many of the things we use, learn and depend on everyday and yet very few even know his name. (Understandable since his full name is Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham.)

So, now feeling deeply inadequate – find any of the aforementioned implements, say a box, like this one:


But could also be a can of pringles, a can of spam, anything. Ideally, it should be black inside and out. You’ll also need scissors, black paint or construction paper, black tape, black and white photo paper (or film) and aluminium foil.

Make sure your box is as lightproof as humanely possible, cover the inside with black paper or or as Mick says, paint it black

Take your scissors and pierce a hole 3cm wide in the top of the box, cut a piece of foil and take your needle and make a small hole in the middle of the aluminium foil. Make sure the hole is very clear and round, you can even take some sandpaper and scrape away any little pieces that are sticking up after you punched the hole – the cleaner and clearer the hole the cleaner and clearer your picture will be. Take the foil and place it over the larger hole you made in the box, secure it to the box with the black tape (electrical tape is best).

Take some of the black construction paper and make a shutter to cover the pinhole, make it so no light gets it but can be removed.

Go into a dark room.


Place your photographic paper or film on the opposite side of the pinhole.

Go to a sunny place or extremely well illuminated place with the hole facing the light source, and remove your shutter. The exposure of the picture begins as soon as you take off that shutter, so make sure the scene is something memorable. Make sure the scene is still and that the camera is still for the duration.

Some experimentation needs to be done because the exposure time is dependent on the lighting but can be from anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 minutes. So experiment!

Theory behind pinhole camera

Geometry behind pinhole camera

So there you have your Camera Obscura fit for the ages.


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