The pinhole photography of Gianfranco Lunardo seems to define why we love photography in the first place, finding the perfect balance between movement and stillness, heaviness and light, permanence and transience. The light in his images is warm, heavy, like amber; slowing the passing of time and containing the world in a single simple frame.
What method do you use? What kind of camera? Film?
At the beginning I started using a Zero Image 2000 pinhole camera. Currently I’m using some cameras by Riccardo Gazzarri, a dear friend of mine, who made some just for me with different “focal lengths”. The pinhole 366, a 30mm wide angle on the 6×6 format; the pinhole 666, a 60mm; the pinhole 866, an 80mm still in the 6×6 format. Moreover, he made a Multiformat and a 6×18 panoramic pinhole. As for films, I used to use an Ilford FP4, but I encountered several problems with these, so now I’m using Fomapan 100 in Hydrofen.
Is the square format a result of your method or an artistic choice?
I’ve always loved the square format. The four equal sides suggest a sense of peace, tranquility and serenity I always try to convey with my photos. Also for this reason, the horizon in most of my photos divides the frame into two equal parts.
I love the sense of balance: movement/stillness. Light/dark. Is this something you consider in your work?
Always. Also for this reason I use the square format. Harmony comes out of balance and not excessive contrast. I try to suggest the idea of movement through the clouds or the trees waved by the wind. Water, then, is perfect in its motion and the pinhole camera long-exposure does the rest.
How do you use photography to portray your reality or a new reality?
I start from reality to give it my personal interpretation. The world seen through a pinhole is a timeless, silent and enchanted one, it has a mood on its own. Realism is tainted, precision and sharpness are limited, all this conveys an ethereal and poetic mood. In pinhole method, I have found, after years of “ordinary” photography, my way of inner expression. Furthermore, everyone has his own visual strategy, by which he expresses points of view, ideas, cultural background, personality. Actually, this way everyone exposes himself to the others.
I love the stillness in your work. I get a sense of standing in one place as time and nature pass by. Is this something you feel when you take photographs?
In pinhole images, the photographer creates a new vision or, in other words, rediscovers it. The slowness of the method allows a more reflective and meditative approach. It forces you to stop, to think. There is a very special relationship with time and the long exposure allows you to breathe together with the camera and the subject. You shoot with more attention, reflection and awareness. My photography is a silent, relaxed one, it tries to convey beauty and harmony according to Walter Benjamin’s idea, that is recognizing the extraordinary as everyday and the everyday as extraordinary.
The light in your work is so warm and almost heavy. It seems to hold the subject in the frame and slow down time. How do you use light in your work? Is there a time of day you prefer to take photographs?
Long exposure rarely allows me to work indoors, so my attention is entirely directed to the outside. I don’t use neither special expedients nor filters. I’m used to taking photographs when a subject strikes my attention and sensitivity, therefore I am forced to use light as available in that specific moment. I normally prefer shooting in cloudy condition to get homogeneous light and a blurred effect for clouds, anyway it also happened to me to photograph in the presence of a clear sky and in the central hours of the day, obtaining totally unexpected but very interesting results.
What are some of your favorite subjects to shoot?
My photograph is mainly a landscape one, also because long exposure time and using a tripod don’t allow much else. I photograph both natural and urban landscapes. I’m fascinated by ruins and abandoned places. I’m also attracted by water, an element which is very present in my photos, as it suggests the idea of time passing by.
How do people or the world people create figure in your work – even if only by their absence?
Again due to the long exposure, people don’t usually appear in my photos, nevertheless this doesn’t mean they are not present. They are traceable in their works and artifacts, in objects they have left behind, whether these latter are archaeological remains or recently lived-in sites, now abandoned. It’s all about their presence-absence. People live and mark their existence in the silent voice of their remains.
I started photography 45 years ago. Over the years I have used equipment of all types and formats but for many years my favorite equipment has been two Leica rangefinders with only two lenses.
For some years now I have turned to a more introspective type of photography trying to convey the amazement, emotion, pleasure, enthusiasm of what struck me. To do this I rediscovered one of my first passions, pinhole photography.
Now I only use wooden cameras without a lens, which thanks to long exposures, their slowness of use, less sharpness allow me to shoot those exterior landscapes that give shape, in their silence, to my interior landscapes.
See more work on Instagram at gianfrancolunardo.