Through the Eye of a Needle
Photographs taken with a Pinhole Camera
by J. Kroin

Orchard Beach

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Through the eye of a needle
Coney Island and a Few Ghost
Photographs taken with a pinhole camera

Sample photographs of Coney Island Ghosts

‘Coney Island and a Few Ghosts’ is a photography book about an iconic island where sights and sounds are always changing. There, an old culture exists with historic rides, classic food stands, hand painted signs on old buildings, and new trend amusements. The book is unique. The photographs were taken with a pinhole camera using black and white film. What the book shows are things, as a spirit, felt or believed to be present and real.

The photographs were taken during a two year period. During that time urban renewal was underway. Many older places were in process of being cleared. Despite, much activity revealed the past culture.

While taking the photographs, Hurricane Sandy, of October 2012, brought changes that people could not have anticipated. With much devastation, there was stillness after the storm. With businesses closed, some residents left and tourists barely returned. Ghosts seemed to have gone in hiding. Soon after, the amusement area was under rapid repair. Some artful buildings were lost forever. With rebuilding, the photographs show that the ghosts again revealed themselves and the place developed a new feeling.

What can we say of Coney Island’s ghosts? Images taken with the pinhole camera film are representational. Who are we to say whether the image is real or not? From the unexpected, is it not always possible to know from looking back, where these random points originate.

The book shows the heart of Coney Island with its unique culture. The place will always have elements of the past, if only in spirit. About the Photographs

The photographs

Photographs in ‘Coney Island and a Few Ghosts’ were taken with a pinhole camera. Sometimes called a ‘camera obscura’, the camera is lensless. Millions of points of light draw through a small aperture, forming an apparent image on the film. The low amounts of light to go through, requiring exposure times from several seconds to many minutes. Resultant images may or may not include what is expected.

Simple, the pinhole camera is ideal to capture the nuances of Coney Island. With pre-visualization and anticipation of what will happen during a long exposure time, the resultant photographs have elements of surprise. People and other objects moving during the exposure sometimes disappear. Other times images shown on the film seem to come from vapor.

Pinhole wooden camera:
Pinhole size .013"
(size of a #20 sewing needle).
f/232. 75mm (medium wide angle).

Film: Ilford Ortho Copy Plus
Orthochromatic. Black and White.
4x5 Sheet Film. ISO 80.
Day: 30-70 sec., Night: 3-6 min.

About the Photographer

Going to Coney Island for over two years, its ever-changing happenings have continued to inspire. To make photographs for Coney Island and a Few Ghosts, using a pinhole camera had been a challenge. Long exposure times made it difficult to take traditional photographs of people. Using patience and anticipation, it was a challenge to capture on film 'ghost' images of people.

Quoted from the New York Botanical Garden's 'Plant Talk' Blog:

It's a delicate patina that defines Joel Kroin's photographs. Each black and white image takes on the small specks, blurs, and aberrations on film not far off from how they first appeared when the method was developed in the mid-19th century. (March 13, 2013)

Because of the nature of pinhole photography - the length of exposure and the time it takes to create an image - moving things often "ghost" in the final result. Of course, Joel assures us these are real ghosts and he's just a recording medium for their presence, so we're going to let the images speak for themselves here. For your peace of mind, no, we don't have the Ghostbusters on retainer. (May 10, 2013

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All photographs © J. Kroin 2012. All Rights Reserved