Pinhole Portraits

For as long as I’ve been using a pinhole camera I’ve wanted to photograph the annual New Year festival in Urnäsch, Switzerland, known as Silvesterkläuse, in which participants march through the village wearing elaborate “beautiful” or “ugly” costumes and masks. Unfortunately the January 13 event always fell after my Christmas visits to Zürich, so I never managed to get there. But this past January I turned 50 and came up with a cockamamy way to celebrate. If I can’t get to Urnäsch, I reasoned, I’ll bring it to me.

Well, sort of. I concocted an event I called “Fifty Years, Fifty Portraits” and spent Sunday, January 12 in my studio in DUMBO taking pinhole photographs of almost sixty willing friends, family, and toddlers who were up for having their portrait taken with a mask. I used the word “mask” loosely — some people brought their own home-made or store-bought masks, some used traditional Swiss masks and old military gas masks I had, and others used nothing, or just simple props. For the most part I asked people to hold their masks, so that their hands were part of the portrait. The results were dark — some even creepy — but I think they turned out well. I’m still delivering digital prints to the participants, and am planning to produce a Blurb book with a selection of the portraits, so the project is still ongoing.

You can see some of the final portraits here and a few contact sheets from this shoot below.



I followed this event up with another series of portraits, this time organized in collaboration with friends at TRUNK, a women’s design collective in DUMBO. We offered people the opportunity to have their photo taken (commercially) through the month of February as a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day portrait. I photographed close to 20 individuals, couples, and families, lighting them less harshly than in the 50/50 series and aiming more for just moody, not creepy. I was delighted with the results and am planning to produce another Blurb book with a selection of these portraits

You can see some of the final portraits here and a few contact sheets from this shoot below.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in these photo shoots — especially the many brave youngsters who stood still in front of my weird camera for so long!