Ceramic camera
Combining two of my biggest passions in life — pottery and photography — I have been making ceramic cameras for several years now. These are fully functional cameras that produce black and white prints. Somewhat different from what you'd find at the local camera store, these creations are pinhole cameras.

The design of this particular camera is based on a hexagon, with a pinhole aperture on every other side wall for a total of three openings through which light reaches the negative. The pinhole drilled through the sheet metal in each of the three openings is about 1/100th of an inch in diameter. Three small lids work like a shutters for the camera. The shutters fit tightly in place, blocking light from the pinhole until the beginning of the exposure. To take a picture each shutter is removed (as shown in the first photograph) and light travels in to the negative. This camera has six feet for stability.

Pinhole cameras can be made from just about any container, so long as the imaging light reaches the negative only through the small pinhole opening. In my cameras I use black and white photo paper for the negative, and the paper is often fitted into a curved holder to give each camera a unique perspective. In the camera shown at left, the 5 x 8 inch paper negative is wrapped around a ceramic cylinder in the interior of the camera.

This camera is about 30 cm tall, and 26 cm wide. It's made of stoneware, reduction fired to cone 10. It has an iron red glaze, and a cobalt blue glaze, plus a post firing decoration of 24K gold leaf. Inside it is glazed matte black. There is no lens, viewfinder nor light meter.

The second photo shows a shutter in place on the side of the camera. The shutter has cork attached to the inner flange to hold it snuggly in the camera opening surrounding the pinhole. To take a photograph the camera is loaded with a piece of photo paper in a darkroom, and then taken outside. The shutter is removed and the negative is exposed. The shutter is replaced, and the camera then goes back into the darkroom, the negative is removed from the camera and developed.

The third photo shows the interior of the camera; the large lid on top has been removed. It shows a piece of photo paper wrapped around the ceramic cylinder in the centre of the camera. The cone of light entering the camera through each pinhole falls on roughly one third of the photo paper, with a little bit of overlap with the light from the adjacent pinholes.

The forth image is the test photograph I made with this camera to see if it worked properly. Pinhole photographs often have a slightly surreal look to them. One of the pinholes was pointing down my driveway, another was pointing at the headlight of my car, and the third was pointing at me while I timed the exposure. Pinhole cameras typically have very long exposures, and this one was one minute in full sun. The long exposures mean that the passage of time itself becomes a factor in the final image — as you can see, I'm somewhat transparent in the photograph! This is because for the first ten seconds of the exposure I was busy next to the camera taking the shutters off, and for the last ten seconds of the exposure I was busy putting them back on, so I was only in the picture for two-thirds of the exposure! The bright marks on my face are actually dapples of light shining through the trees on the other side of my head. Each image that comes through the pinhole is flipped horizontally and vertically before it reaches the negative making for an interesting jumble in the final image.

There are some more examples of my ceramic cameras on my Cameras page.
Ceramic camera
Ceramic camera interior
Ceramic camera photo
Steve Irvine
R.R. # 2
Wiarton, Ontario
Canada N0H 2T0
(519) 534 2175