Mary Kocol portfolio Pinhole Camera Book was chosen as an 2020 Rfotofolio Selection .
We are pleased to share her work here on Rfotofolio.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I’m a professional artist photographer living in the Boston area. I grew up near Hartford, CT and have been taking pictures since I was a kid. My first camera was a toy 126mm film camera that came with flash cubes, purchased from Green Stamps! Remember those?! In addition to being an artist photographer for over 30 years, I’ve also done editorial photography and now work as a photographer of fine art for the Harvard Art Museums. Gallery NAGA in Boston has been showing and representing my photography work since 1993.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I studied photography at University of Connecticut as an undergrad, and then earned an MFA in photography from RI School of Design in the 1980s. At both schools I studied with a wonderful and inspiring photography professor named William E. Parker.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
For this particular pinhole camera book, I was inspired by a publication called The Pinhole Camera that would feature unique pinhole camera pictures and methods.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
I love the portrait work of Julia Margaret Cameron for many reasons, the wonderful faces emerging out of the home-made emulsion, made by a lady who discovered photography later in life, who built a darkroom out of a former chicken coop, on the Isle of Wight by the sea.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson.
Sometimes it takes lots of patience, trial and error, and technical knowledge for an idea in your head to arrive at the final image, don’t give up.
Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.
The Pinhole Camera Book is an altered book that I made some time ago. I’ve always loved toy and pinhole cameras and have made my own out of an oatmeal can or 4×5 film boxes. One day while looking through a used bookstore I came across the book “Concepts of Classical Optics” by John Strong from the 1950s, containing diagrams of how lenses and optics work. I thought it would be fun to turn the book into a pinhole camera by embedding a functioning pinhole inside it and taking pictures with it. I cut out the center pages to fit a 4×5 film box, since it’s already built to keep film dark. When resting on a table, it’s incognito, a pinhole camera disguised as a book.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding.
I really love hands on work, such as making pinhole cameras, cyanotypes, ice plates that I photograph in the sun, etc. I grew up in photography in the darkroom, and really miss that aspect of it – the magic of light and chemicals. Digital has its pluses, but it does keep me sitting at a computer screen longer than I’d like to. Making large prints of my other work and exhibiting it is also rewarding.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
Travel or getting away into nature for a weekend retreat is helpful. In the old days of contact sheets, I found it helpful to set them aside for a month or so, let things percolate, then return to them later with a fresh eye. Giving it all a rest and picking up a different activity can also help such as drawing, gardening, or poetry writing. Investigating cameraless photography is also fun.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
I like a variety of picture making tools, from a good camera and film scanners, to simple low tech pinholes and toy cameras that shoot film. Even expired photo paper can be used for its latent image (for example: solagram in a pinhole camera for months-long exposures). I recently bought a mirrorless digital camera that I’m excited about.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
More time-lapse or underway photography, I bought a GoPro just before the pandemic hit, and it’s been fun making night-lapse videos of the moon, stars, and sky at night, reminding me that no matter how difficult things get here on earth, we’re still part of something greater and wonderful.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
A camera allows me to be an observer of the world. There’s so much ugliness in the world right now, I use my camera and art making to find the beauty in it, to encourage myself and others.
How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?
I spent most of the 2020 garden season experimenting with anthotype photograms made from the plants in my garden. In non-pandemic times I’d be too busy for this slow process, but I used the pandemic summer to make emulsions and photograms from wild and garden plants. I like the way the process made me more aware of weather, sun exposure times, bloom time of plants, and what is ephemeral.
Thank you Mary, to learn more about the work of Mary Kocol please visit her site by clicking on her name.