In the 30 days up to 18 May, 838 crowd-funders had promised to contribute a total of £25,020 to one of the latest schemes designed to help us capture sunshine. All Sam Cornwell was asking for was £2,500.
Sam’s been a contributor to Carlisle Photo Festival in the past. His objective was to make it easy for us to ensnare the Sun in a can without having to involve mandarin oranges or pineapple chunks. But what Sam, who’s from Hawick in the Scottish Borders, is doing is producing a camera in a can, or rather a camera from a can. The idea is that the Solarcam records the path of the Sun through the screwed-up eye of f/132 with a 160-degree field of view for months on end. The recording medium is a 5×7 sheet of Ilford Pearl photo paper and the whole thing – a 440ml drinks can – arrives weathertight and ready for its ordeal.
It’s not straightforward pinhole photography though….it’s easier than that. You don’t need to calculate an exposure (especially for the paper at what? ISO3?) You don’t need to actually process the paper either. The power of the Sun and passing time does that for you, burning its image into the emulsion. The intention is that you copy the image – scan or snap it – and then invert it.
Solarcan has already had good coverage on the internet, where it even made an appearance on dpreview.com. Typically commenters are suggesting plenty of home-made alternatives for producing similar images, but Sam has done the work for you; all you need to do is tie the can to a suitable support (cable ties included) uncover the pinhole and then wait weeks or months.
It’s probable that the longest exposures ever made were by Michael Weseley who set up some 5×4 cameras to record the major structural changes at MOMA in New York in the early 2000s. Three years those shutters were open. It being MOMA, there is of course a book about it.
So the principle behind Solarcan might not be the newest, but its form seems new and smart, it’s convenient and it’s fun in a months-on-end-of-anticipation sort of way. When you think of the amazing resurgence of pinhole photography and how that wonderful thing (no need to agree, but not looking for an argument here) Lomography has taken off it’d be nice to think that the Solarcan is going to spark new enthusiasm and new ideas.