Alesja Serada.

My name is Alesja Serada, I’m 35, I’m from Minsk, Belarus.

I’ve been through all kinds of ‘creative’ jobs in my life. Right now, I’m working at my Master’s thesis in Visual Culture, and I hope to continue my studies as a postgraduate student. My pinhole project started as a study project on visual sociology during my Master’s.

So, Alesja, why do you do what you do?

Actually, I started doing photography about ten years ago, as a way of connecting with the people and the world. My observation is, people usually do creative things to brighten up their reality, or to escape from reality, but I actually do it to keep in closer contact with reality, even if I can’t accept it with my heart.

What is integral to your practice?

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been doing photography for a while, mostly shooting mindlessly, but it only started working for me when I applied more theory I had learned in my Visual Culture programme. So, my practice is very cerebral now.

Why pinhole?

In 2018, my teacher challenged me to conduct an empirical study based on methodology of Bruno Latour. Bruno Latour is a French ‘rock star’ sociologist with controversial ideas, which don’t really work well empirically, so it was a real challenge. I recalled his popular example of a tin can floating in the sea, as a non-human agent that can actually see us. 

Then, I found Diana Pankova, who is a talented pinhole photographer - you can find her on Instagram as maverick_mariner - and conducted a small field study with her. We went out and made photographs with tin cans, and so it started. After my study course was over, I was encouraged to do a full scale artistic project, and this is what I am doing now, independently.

Are there any particular themes you pursue with your practice?

This specific project (“What The Tin Can Saw”) is about my city, Minsk, its architecture and planning. Minsk is a very ‘Soviet’ city, with a lot of Socialist architecture. A lot of it is absolutely hideous (like the area where I grew up), but there are certain districts which were meant for the Party elite, military professionals, and model workers. 

These parts of the city still show this imaginary picture of “happy socialism”, and for people in their 30’s and 40’s, they have this dreamlike air of nostalgia. Also, they are in decline now, as the official city development plan implies demolishing anything lower than three stories if it cannot be turned into a flashy tourist magnet. So, for this project, I am mostly photographing low story houses from 1950’s or older, with a particular interest to abandoned buildings or areas soon to be ‘developed’, as well as more distinct Soviet architecture to create more context.

Has your practice change over time? If so, how?

My composition skills have improved significantly over time. Also, I started with authentic Soviet photo paper from the 1970’s, simply because I was not ready to spend too much money on it, and many people in post-Soviet countries still have photo equipment and materials from their fathers and grandfathers somewhere on the upper shelf. I used modern paper later. But my instruments are still the same old tin cans, and I am not going to upgrade them for this project - they are a part of it. 

Is there a specific piece you’re especially proud of? And why?

There is one particular house in my photographs that was actually being demolished while I was taking pictures of it. And that one was not even Soviet heritage, it was from the XIX century or older! Conceptually, I should have tried even longer exposures, like, a week long, for that one, but I missed the chance. Still, it holds a special place in my heart.

From whom do you draw the most inspiration?

I’m mostly inspired by abstract ideas, like in that case with Latour. I think now I’d be able to do a visual project even on Karl Marx, even though it is not a pleasant reading, and certainly not an ‘inspiration’ in the usual sense.

What is your dream project?

I’d love to do an album cover. I haven’t mentioned music as my inspiration because it is a very different experience for me, cordial, not cerebral.  But I need this emotional connection, I just haven’t figured out yet how to connect.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Do not go quietly unto your grave” - it is a song by Morphine, and I relate to it a lot. 

Dani Aime.

My name is Daniel Aime, I am 40 years old and I am from the city of Rosario, Argentina. I am a photographer, currently interested in alternative photography, blueprints, cyantotypes and chlorophyllotypes but mostly pinhole photography. I love researching and playing with pinhole cameras that I build myself, always in the search for an authentic freedom of formats and textures outside the conventions of the world of photography of the 21st century. 

To shoot pinhole is to practice a FREE technique that encloses the basic and fundamental principles of photography. Pinhole photography allows us to move freely between unimagined, endless formats. It is an authentically free photograph, it gives us the possibility to break all the established rules and open up to the imagination and our most playful and experimental senses to appropriate the world around us. 

Experimentation through pinhole photography is a tool that allows us to always be surprised by the uncertainty and the vagaries of the behaviour of light. Although there are lots of physical laws that govern the behaviour of light, entering the pinhole world is always a path that zigzags between surprise and artistic beauty of sometimes clear images and sometimes ambiguous ones, like out of a dream. If we could “photograph” our dreams those images would, without doubt, be pinhole: subtle, personal, formed by a minimum amount of light in the middle of the purest darkness. A tiny amount of light, but necessary and sufficient to unleash a world of its own completely mysterious and intimate, captivating and beautiful. 

I believe that there is no particular “theme” that I pursue with my practice, I like to photograph the everyday, my house, my family, all through the pinhole camera. Of course, my practice has changed over time. Mainly the process of construction of the cameras that I use, adapting them to the needs that were arising in my search, as well as to resolve concerns that arise in the aesthetic plane of photography that I try to show. 

There is no specific piece that I’m proud of, I think in a way, each one of the pinhole pictures I get has something that makes me proud. The mere fact of being able to get images from a camera built with your own hands should already be a pride (and I think it really is) for anyone who is attracted to alternative photography. 

I usually get the most inspiration from my everyday environment, it may be from a movie I’ve seen, from a book I read, or just from curiosity to know “how would this picture look if I do it in such and such a way …” 

I love many photographers, the work that Francesca Woodman did, I love it. Or the Chilean artists; Sergio Larrain, Otto Steinert, etc. From Argentina, Adriana Lestido and Horacio Coppola, in short, many great photographers. But I think that, as I said before, the biggest inspiration is to enjoy playing with pinhole cameras in my everyday life.

A dream project would be to show my work in different parts of the world. Travel and connect with people who also enjoy pinhole photography and share experiences. 

The best advice I received was to understand that there are no “good or bad” photographs. Learning to understand that each one shows what they want to show and in the way they are most interested in and that, what really matters is whether or not one could capture the intention in the photograph. A photograph can only be judged by the person who made it.

Marko Umicevic.

Marko Umicevic is a fine art and experimental photographer working in a black and white silver-based medium. His work is based on optic of self-designed pinhole camera in pair with paper negative as a preferred medium of choice. More recently, he started experimenting with photo paper as his only tool. Marko has a MA Degree in Art History and formal photographic training. He exhibited internationally in both Europe and USA and his work has been featured in several publications.

What is your name? How old are you? And, where are you from?

My name is Marko Umicevic, I’m 36 years old. I live in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where my darkroom and digital studio are based. My photographic adventure started off with film and medium format camera. Seven years ago I started producing photographs with self-designed pinhole cameras and my newest project goes even further than that: experimenting camera-less, with photo paper as my only equipment. In my newest project I use the medium of photography to create a deeper bond between myself and nature and to explore the unbelievable potency of nature, its self-sufficiency and the power to create and nurture life within its soil. I am magically attracted to the art of creating pictures, but my interest does not lie in mere photocopy of reality.

In your own words, what do you do?

I shoot with home-made pinhole cameras, which I designed specifically to hold a single sheet of paper at a time, instead of film. I crafted cameras out of simple materials such as cardboard, wood or aluminium. They are made to be sturdy and functional and aren’t looking fancy at all. With these self-designed cameras I made three portfolios so far: Malkauns, Floating Outerworlds and Mirror of Prague. Beside new images that are in colour, all my work is black and white and most of it is printed by hand in the darkroom.

Why do you do what you do?

It brings me a lot of joy, really. There is something deeply personal and intimate about it. Especially in making photographs that are deprived of human presence, big civilizational achievements and all these glittering little things our consumeristic realities are made of. I wanted to escape from all that and to contemplate my own vision of the world, and the vision of myself in that world. I love the slowness of it, I love being in the process, I love the ability to be in control of the process from the very beginning until the very end.

What is integral to your practice?

I would say consistency and truthfulness to my own visions and aesthetics. I am very meticulous and detail oriented when it comes to light, working with chemicals, tonality, etc., but also I’m constantly trying to explore something new and to move my own boundaries even further. I have a lot of patience. I never rush to finish up something just to complete the series and sometimes one photograph remains in my mind for months before I finally let it go. I would say I can be idealistic lunatic sometimes, but I love working within the medium and I’m amazed with its possibilities.

Why pinhole?

I was introduced to a pinhole at a time when I was already working with analogue camera. But I switched to pinhole because I felt there were more things to explore and I loved the strangeness of perspective. Since I was able to design my own cameras and load them with paper, cut to my own liking, soon I discovered all the perks of working with non-standard formats and having everything done in nonconventional way. Finally, there is this phenomenon of pinhole light as pinhole renders light differently than any lens does. When I make photographs with pinhole camera, sometimes it feels that light literally draws shapes of outer world onto the paper, as if some kind of magic is present inside of the box.

Are there any particular themes you pursue with your practice?

As a photographer I was always attracted to landscapes and cityscapes. Locations I choose all have personal relevance to me and I don’t see it happening any other way. For instance, Floating Outerworlds has been made in wilderness of highly depopulated area of mountain Croatia (region of Lika), where my grandmother lives. The nature there is basically untouched and unpolluted and you can really feel yourself close to it. Then there is series Mirror of Prague which is my personal homage to childhood days spent in Prague when I visited my father during the 90s. I referred to Prague as to the city of magic and I always feel magical when I’m there, so I tried to convey that feeling to my photographs.

Has your practice change over time? If so, how?

Over the years I switched my focus from reality to dreamlike reality. And when it comes to process of making pictures, I think I started to see photo paper, i.e. paper negative, as even more important tool than camera itself. The processing of paper negative remained the same. But today I also use digital tools, such as scanner and printer, after I exit my darkroom. So with being completely lo-fi and out of this time, I also try not to avoid being digital, which also means presence on social networks.

Is there a specific piece you’re especially proud of? And why?

It’s the photograph “Outer Heavens” from my portfolio Floating Outerworlds. This piece has been widely exhibited and published on several occasions.

From whom do you draw the most inspiration?

Nature, art and music are always biggest inspirations for me. I love to discover other artists whose sentiment resembles my own; that always comes as big inspiration too. Lately I was blown away by “Littoral Drift” by Meghann Riepenhoff and “Force Fields” by Liz Nielsen.

What is your dream project?

The project I am currently working on. I’d love to keep my focus on the nature for a longer period of time and just see where it takes me.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Croatian fine art photographer Josip Klarica, one of the pupils of famous Czech photographer Josef Sudek, said to me when he reviewed my first pinhole photographs that “there always must be something in the middle of the frame”. And this advice was very helpful to me. I realized that even when something is not there, for instance when I’m capturing vast landscape, this “optical centre” has to be somewhere in my head. “Centre” is just a concept.

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