Cher MacNeill has explored photography from an early age: she received her first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, at age 8 and her first 35mm on her 16th birthday. Later, she studied photography as part of a joint fine art degree at the University of Toronto and Sheridan College.
In 2005, after working 20 years in film editing, she found herself drawn back to the still image… particularly to the pinhole photograph and its cinematic take.
Pinhole cameras now accompany her on all her travels.
Cher MacNeill, born in Montreal, currently resides in Toronto.
THE PINHOLE PROCESS / ARTIST’S STATEMENT
“Here the figures, here the colors, here all the images of every part of the universe are contracted to a point. O what a point is so marvellous! “
Leonardo da Vinci describes camera obscura c. 1485
A pinhole camera has no lens -- light simply passes through a tiny hole. There is no viewfinder so the composition must be approximated. Exposure times are lengthy: anywhere from several seconds to several hours. These long exposures play with our preconceived notions of photography. Rather than a split second capture, passages of time are crammed onto a single frame. The long exposure time, required by the pinhole camera, subverts “the decisive moment” or “split second capture” notion of photography.
My twenty years working in film editing informs my recent exploration of the pinhole process. My interest lies in how this process provides a cinematic crunch: 24 seconds on a frame instead of 24 frames per second. There is no decisive moment. Instead, passages of time are committed to a single frame. The flow of any movement doesn’t just freeze but condenses on that single frame. The resulting images of this cinematic condensation evoke narratives of time, memory and mood. I am most intrigued by how the pinhole process suspends and distils the evanescent qualities of motion and the little bits of time and history that I chose to record.
I photograph mainly with a panoramic pinhole camera (6cm x 12cm). This format further enhances the cinematic appeal as well as my square formatted camera (6cm x 6cm). While I shoot both in colour and black and white and am drawn to subject matter that includes movement: water, wind, cloud. I often photograph subjects that are old and suggestive of history.
Recently, I’ve begun to explore photographing the human figure; and am currently working on two series: a P.E.I. portrait series and an urban architecture series.
More information on the pinhole photography process is available at
2007: Selected Works (group exhibition) Leonardo Gallery, Toronto ON
2007: CONTACT Toronto Photography Festival -- Portfolio Review Exhibition
2006: Queen West Art Crawl, Toronto ON