A pinhole camera is, basically, a camera that doesn't have a lens, only one small aperture to let in light. The method is over 100 years old, and creates striking, angular black and white photographs. It's a medium particularly suited to the large-scale sculptures and interactive art common at Burning Man.

Our process started with a stationary pinhole camera originally built out of wood. It was about 10 feet long, by 7 feet wide and 7 feet tall. At the front of the camera was the pinhole where the photographic paper was attached. The back of the camera was our darkroom. Pinhole Project participants would encourage Burning Man attendees to come by with their friends in costumes, in arts cars, whatever they had, to take pictures with us.

We next evolved to barrel cameras. Imagine the old quaker oats box, and the curved surface of the picture plane creates an amazing wide-angle with interesting distortions. Maybe you once made a pinhole camera as a child, or maybe you had a pinhole camera assignment in an old-school photography class. Inside the barrel is a large, hand cut sheet of photographic mural paper. Each photo is a 30”x 40” paper negative, one of a kind unique piece of original art.

Unlike the first Pinhole Project cameras, where the art had to come to the photographer, the portable barrel cameras enable us to find interesting and unique art or moments in time, anywhere on the playa, no matter what. This allows us to really work our imaginations and experiment with different compositions, exposure times and other ideas.

The barrel cameras can also be attached to little trailers on the back of bicycles which are capable of travel all over Burning Man to take photos of art projects and festival participants. When combined with our large “tripod” wheel, the string becomes hand crafted dragon of photographic amazement!

Public participation is part of the power of Pinhole Project. Our photographic process is a community event. We empower users to collaborate on the composition and exposure often serving as models and composers of the photographic product.  One person sets up the scene, someone times the exposure, everyone holds for 40 to 120 seconds and another records the exposure time, location, and time of day for prosperity.

The barrel cameras next travel their way back to our Desert Darkroom. Just behind Media Mecca, a storage container is transformed into a full wet photographic darkroom  where the playa magic continues.