The excitement of grainy film

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”

– Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices

A few weeks ago, I came across this Brian Eno passage that’s been rattling around my brain. Like a sizable segment of my age demographic, I’m drawn to the qualities of antiquated media, and have always been interested in how the analog meets the digital.

I built my first pinhole camera out of cardboard and a 110 format film cartridge when I was in grade school, and have tinkered with the decidedly lo-fi format off an on since. This past Christmas I made a few prime pinhole lenses of varying focal lengths out of PVC, tin foil and a camera body cap for my brother and his Canon SLR . This weekend, I modified the plans slightly and made a handful of lenses for my Lumix GM1, and today I made some test images with them. I sort of love the 8 mm quality to them, even if they are grainy and blurry.

pinhole lenses

20 mm standardShot with a standard 20 mm lens at f1.7.

25 mm pinhole cameraThe pinhole 25 mm f200.

45 mm pinhole cameraThe pinhole 45 mm f250.

100 mm pinhole cameraThe pinhole 100mm f300.

200 mm pinhole cameraThe pinhole 200mm f400.

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