Smile! Justin Quinnell’s Awfulogrammes

Pinhole camera afficionado Justin Quinnell has a startling new portrait technique which produces truly ghastly images. Behold, the Awfulogramme

Pinhole camera afficionado Justin Quinnell has a startling new portrait technique which produces truly ghastly images. Behold, the Awfulogramme



Quinnell says he developed the technique in response to the dreadful British weather which makes obtaining enough light to create standard pinhole camera images a problem. “I came up with this technique when trying to do pinhole photography workshops at universities throughout the winter of 2013 – 14,” he says. “It was so overcast that every day resembled a continual total solar eclipse with exposure times (three seconds in sunlight) going over 30 seconds. This, combined with the usual hurricane conditions which occur every winter in my beloved country, required drastic indoor pinhole action. The Awfulogramme was born!”



According to Quinnell, to take an Awfulogramme you will need the following:

A beer can camera loaded with light sensitive photographic paper (video on how to make one here) and access to a darkroom with chemicals etc.

Two hand held ‘Manual’ flash guns. (As powerful as you can find, 32 guide number is good)

A slave unit (A gizmo which sets off a flashgun when it ‘sees’ another flash going off)

A victim

Several hands to hold and operate all this stuff!



And here’s how to take the picture, in Quinnell’s own words:

1 – Find an indoor area. (This allows the shutter to be removed for a good number of seconds in ambient light before the light sensitive paper gets too affected)

2- Charge up the flashguns and hold them frighteningly close to the subject-victim. The flash guns need to be pointed at the subject rather than the camera. (I find its best to get the subject to hold these in position, which gives them something to do their hands whilst looking scared!)

3- Peel the shutter off the camera then hold it far to close to the subject-victim and set off the flashgun (the one without the slave unit).

4 – When the subject-victim starts recoiling and saying things like “Whoa, that was hot” whist screaming “I can’t see!”, replace the shutter on the camera then apologise for not suggesting they close their eyes before the exposure.

5 – Develop the paper negative then scan into a scanner to make a positive, messing about with inverse and contrast and levels settings if required.





Quinnell’s images are currently on display at the Bear Pit Open Gallery in Stokes Croft, Bristol, where he has a residency until September and where local grafitti artists havebeen adding their own touches to the pictures



The exhibition will evolve over the summer to take in more images and, in its final phase, the Awfullo, a tale loosely based on the Gruffalo illustrated with more of Quinnell’s pinhole grotesques.


More here

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