July 19, 2012

Site Specific Cameras

James is a wonderful photographer. He will often develop a love affair with a specific place and document it over many years. He frequently works with pinhole cameras, some of which he designs and fabricates based on the particular site. His recent work more closely resembles the example I showed here, but this series in Kenmore Square from way back in 2005 (when our romance was budding) remains a favorite of mine.

One of the things I love about these images is how chaotic and accidental they appear. At first glance each one just looks like random multiple exposures or a graphic pattern... but they are the result of meticulous study, planning, and intention.

Dozens of cameras were constructed for this site; each one refined again and again to collapse or invert particular moments of this place. I am in awe of the patience and organization this process requires. Every angle of each camera carefully drafted, every exposure and sun condition recorded... there are literally thick books filled with this detailed documentation.


It's intense! But all of this methodical coordination somehow adds up to images that are so loose and messy and describe the layering, light, and confusion of the city with a subtlety that I could never articulate.

I am so enamored with these photographs. Some of the more abstract images I want to make into textiles or paper my walls with them... someday!

It's fantastic luck that I ended up sharing my life with someone who matches my own curiosity and passion to create, yet who's process is so different from my own.  I procrastinate until I am hit with inspiration in the middle of the night and then stay up until dawn while he rises early and showers before sitting at a desk.

We sometimes drive each other nuts; he wrings his hands at my messy pile of notes and sketches and I roll my eyes at his tidy row of binders. More often though, we motivate and compliment one another. All we need now is more time in the day to actually tackle a project or two.

*all photographs by James M. Smith, 2005


  1. Beautiful photography! I am in awe. I am much too lazy to work on something so complex! :)

  2. this are amazing, I'm just learning about photography, I can't imagine all the thought that went into creating these


  3. Little Smith is so lucky to have such creative parents! He's going to have such a fantastic time growing up with you two. :) I've never made a pinhole camera but I have friends who have and it's always been something that's interested me. Truthfully though, I'm not sure I have the patience for it. It may just be something I have to marvel at from afar!

  4. Wow. These are incredible! I've never seen anything like them. My dad was a photographer, so I definitely have the interest in my blood. James is quite talented!

    In unrelated news, you were in my dream last night! I had a dream that I met you in person and you were as warm and radiant as you are on your blog!

    1. That's so cool! It is a lot of fun getting to follow along with your daily life in blog-land... who knows maybe one day our paths will cross in person :)

  5. Oh wow, those are just amazing!

  6. So amazing! I love pinhole photography.

  7. Astounding! I can't even imagine being able to create something so detailed and meticulous and that actually worked! My brain doesn't operate that way. I'm a messy last-minuter too. I am truly impressed with James' work - amazing!


  8. Both of you have seriously impressive talents.