By Chris Keeney
Walter Crump is a photography teacher currently living in Boston, Massachusetts and it’s a pleasure to have him as the May 2011 CK pinhole photographer feature.
“I am attracted to alternative ways in which cameras see the world. I was trained as a painter and printmaker. But years later when I was asked to teach photography at my school in 1986, I accepted, even though I had never worked in a darkroom. After a year or so of teaching the course and taking photography courses, I became fascinated with the possibilities of extending my vision through photography. I soon gave up printmaking for photography. When all my camera equipment was stolen about two years later, I built my first pinhole cameras.
Having lived and photographed in urban environments most of my life, I have witnessed time and again the constant flux of cities and urban place, their sustained birth and decay. Many of the places I have photographed over many years have become “altered,” have deteriorated, been renovated or have been completely replaced with new structures and spaces. By photographing these specific places, I document and stabilize an instant in urban growth and decay.
My largest body of work consists of pinhole cityscapes, an ongoing series I call “The Bent Cities Project” using handmade pinhole cameras. I mimic this urban transformation by using cylindrical cameras and paper negatives to create “bent” cityscapes and details seemingly from an indeterminate time and place.
The use of pinhole cameras allow for “controlled accidents”. The absence of a view finder, light meter, the use of paper negatives and with my cylindrical pinhole cameras, allows for a strange warpings of the captured world. The resulting image is often full of surprises both good and bad. In the past I modified my photographs with bleaches, fixer, toners and painted on emulsions, as well as exposing them to light at inappropriate times. Now I treat my photographs in a comparable way but digitally. I like to think of this series of photographs as visual memories that never existed except perhaps in a parallel world. I want these images to look as if they exist both in the past and present becoming luminous wrecks of a dubious age , blending fiction and reality leaving surface maps mimicking images of the past which have been tainted by the vagaries of the season, exposure to the sun, weather and the blemished by indeterminate handling and use over time.
When I first started photographing I was more interested in capturing reflections rather than the actual world. I have continued on that projector ever since. Because this work is elusive, existing between two contexts”
CK → I first heard about Walter Crump’s pinhole photography through a good friend and fellow pinholer, Jesseca Ferguson. As I looked through Walter’s photos I could see myself traveling through time to a place that had beautifully distorted cityscapes. Each composition had a unique and different way of viewing landscapes that most people might pass by without notice. And being that Walter’s a photography teacher, I’m sure it’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking that he must pass on to his students. And since all of Walter’s photos are all created with pinhole cameras that he’s made and decorated with his own hands. Now that my pinhole book comes May 25th, It seems fitting to have an artist like Walter as this month’s feature. Thanks Walter sharing your thoughts and images here and keep those awesome pinhole photos coming!