Pinhole Photographs: Harvey Mills

There’s something about pinhole photography that embodies the feeling of literal magic of early photography and filmmaking. It’s such a simple yet remarkable process, which seems to capture time as it passes, by enticing it through a tiny hole and trapping it in a box. Light and shadow are given such a powerful voice. The depth of field is infinite, everything is in focus. Any movement leaves a dreamlike blur, and anything that moves too fast escapes capture altogether.

Harvey Mills uses pinhole photography as a way to slow things down, revel in uncertainty, and rediscover the fundamentals. His photographs celebrate everything wonderful about the process, and in turn, everything wonderful about photography. He creates a world we want to enter to find some peace, some silence, and a great deal of beauty.

The world is a frantic place; the pace of change is both swift and relentless. Sometimes, you just want to step off the ride and turn your back on it for a while. The recent pandemic gave me an opportunity to go right back to basics and concentrate on the art of pinhole photography: an experimental process whereby you don’t really know the precise outcomes until the film is developed – the antithesis of this manic digital age. I find that one has to take an almost Zen like approach to image making with pinholes – you can’t rush the process! Your subject matter and compositional decisions need to be very carefully considered – although framing is usually imprecise. The simplicity is perfect as you can concentrate on the creative aspects of photography rather than being bogged down with technicalities. I like to use ultra low sensitivity film so that my exposure time for each frame is as extended as possible, thus accentuating and recording any movement (trees, water, clouds, etc) in the scene, giving that unique ‘pinhole-look’.

Mental health is a huge and growing problem, exacerbated by the virus and its far-reaching implications on social contact, livelihoods, and general normality. I wanted to produce fine-art images with peaceful scenes of calmness and tranquility, and pinhole photography is the perfect medium to portray these softer elements of our lives. The resulting works that I have produced during this period are natural scenes that have subtle degrees of movement (trees, water etc), which are captured during longer exposures – sometimes seconds, sometimes minutes. However, despite the isolated, sedentary life imposed by various lockdowns and other Covid-related restrictions, the world spins madly on. I can only hope that my pinhole photographs give the viewers some brief respite and visual relief from the demands of our crazy planet! – Harvey Mills

I am a professional photographer based in the UK, with many years of freelance experience. I grew up in North Cornwall during the 1970’s, and studied under renowned artist and sculptor Carole Vincent. It was under Caroles’ wonderful guidance and tutoring that I developed a keen interest in visual composition, the principles of design, and a burning ambition to work in a creative industry. I now work as a commercial photographer and photo-journalist across the UK and beyond. I enjoy helping clients bring their corporate visions to life, but my real passion is in producing documentary and editorial pieces. As well as the ‘Day Job’, I love the challenge of street photography, and the freedom of creating fine-art photographs, both genres are refreshingly without the constraints of a corporate ‘brief’ or the pressure of tight press deadlines. See more work at harveymills.com and on Instagram at harvey_mills and pinhole_photographs.

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