Since 2005 I've been doing lots of pinhole photography and I'm always trying to find concepts for original cameras. Last year I came up with the multi-cell pinhole camera. I had lots of old 8x10" paper that a friend had given me (Kodak Panalure select RC - not made anymore). I wasn't using it so I decided to design the camera around that.
The inspiration for the camera came from collages I had seen online that were made up of images using the entire 36 shots of a 35mm roll. The effect in some of the images particularly appealed to me where each frame overlapped with it's neighbour. David Hockney used a similar technique to create his amazing 'joiners' from multiple Polaroid photos.
I wanted to create a pinhole version that would re-create this overlapping effect while only having to take a single exposure. As I thought about it was clear that the level of overlapping is a function of the distance of the subject from the camera. For example, my camera has a focal length of 100mm and any object shot at 100mm from the camera appears "normal" - i.e all the cells fit together to make up the image of the object as one would expect. At greater distance the overlapping is introduced. It's these two features that really make the camera a fun and creative tool, you can combine this 'lining up' and 'overlapping' effect to make some interesting photos.
Making the camera was pretty simple, I used:
1) a shoe-box (with a bit of cutting and refolding I was able to size it down to 8x10")
2) 25 pinholes made from cutting up soda can and piercing/sanding- I made many more and scanned them all to select the ones that were of a similar size
3) a grid made from cardboard - see picture showing the arrangement. Each sheet is slotted at intervals of the cell size so that the "X" sheets fit into the "Y" sheets and vice versa. The slot widths being equal to the thickness of the cardboard.
4) a flat sheet of cardboard as a sliding shutter - there are lots of way to do this, another slightly larger lid would also work well.
When I placed the grid into the shoebox it gave me 25 independent light tight cells (a little leakage between cells isn't a problem). I used the lid of the shoe-box as my "film" holder, you could also use film holders but this involves alot more work to make the back. For me, for now, a one shot design is ok, if I start to use it a bit more I might put a back on it so I can use my film holders. Obviously the camera needs to be loaded in the dark (red safe-light for paper). So far I have shot a handful of sheets of paper in the camera. The reason being I went quickly from the pinhole version to build a lensed version. I am currently planning on shooting more of these multi-cell photos both pinhole and lensed. I have also now got a stock of 8x10" x-ray film - the slow speed of the paper was very limiting for pinhole, fine for in-animate objects but not so much for doing portraits - the selfie I did was a 4 minute exposure!
I forgot to mention that when the negative is developed the cells needs to be transposed afterwards in photoshop or equivalent. As each cell is upsidedown and back to front they do not line up as expected. Easier to explain with a picture than with words - see bellow. Some have said that the negative itself un-transposed has an abstract quality that is also appealing.