Alan Wolf

Chair of Physics

Pinhole Photography Contest

Every year Cooper Union Engineering sophomores build pinhole cameras
out of one gallon paint cans and a piece of thin brass penetrated by a very
fine 'beading' needle.  The pinhole, rather than a piece of glass, IS the lens.
The inside of the can is painted black, and photo paper is mounted in the
can, opposite the pinhole.  The exposures are very long -- typically on the
order of five minutes.  The photo paper is then conventionally (chemically)
developed to make a negative image, and (sometimes) scanned and
inverted in Photoshop to make a positive final image.











For instructions on how to make a pinhole camera (they are all over the web), Google:
pinhole camera
pinhole camera paint can
pinhole camera  matchbox

Pinhole photographs have a number of unusual properties.  For example,
given the long exposure time, people in the scene often do not appear in
the photo at all, unless they are standing very still.  

A competition is held each year.  Most of the photos below were winners
(first through 4th place) over the past few years.  One of my favorites is
directly below.  Student David Isele took this photo of a (fake) UFO. 








In the photo below, Uyen Nguyen is folding origami.  She sat in that spot
for about half an hour, hence appears as a blur. 





























What appears to be a 'high speed' photograph below is actually a student
perched on a fence and a wall for many seconds. 
















A photo taken on the west side of Manhattan. 











 Another, apparently "high speed" photo below. 














A sculpture (bicycle rack?) at Astor Place.













A photo taken from our new academic building (41 Cooper Square). 
































Some photos look better as negatives...  Below, Cooper's Foundation Building. 















Below is an overnight exposure taken in our new academic building
at 41 Cooper Square. 





























Students were spinning the cube-shaped sculpture "The Alamo" near the
Cooper Union.  The rotation of the cube is visible, but the students are moving
too rapidly to be seen. 














Shown below is a very long exposure in the classroom.  Most students are
a blur, because they are at least occasionally moving their hands, heads, and torsos.
But notice the student in the back row who is in very sharp focus -- she was sleeping.














The photo below is mine.  I did it with color film in a fancy pinhole camera.
Developing was by a local photo lab.  It was a long exposure, so the 'Mud
Truck' is sharp, but the long line of people buying coffee are a collection of
faint ghosts.