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"Richmond's Helping Hands," by James W. Draper Jr.
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"Virginia Union University Belgium Figure" by James W. Draper Jr.
“RVA as Seen Through the Pinhole,” a collection of black and white photographs taken using the camera oscura, or pinhole camera, will open at the Elegba Folklore Society's Cultural Center as part of tonight’s First Fridays Art Walk. Photographer James W. Draper, Jr. says of his subject, the city of Richmond, “To me, it's an outdoor studio.” He also calls the city, steeped as it is in history, “a photographer's paradise” and hopes that viewers will see his work “as representation of a moment in history.”
As for his choice of medium, Draper says, “Pinhole goes beyond traditional photography [because it] frees the photographer to create his own image.” The pinhole camera, unlike a digital or film camera, Draper says, automatically puts the entire image in focus, and has an exposure time of under a minute. In this way, it functions more like a projector than a standard camera.
A retired teacher in Richmond Public Schools, Draper began working with pinhole photography in 1970, when he was asked to teach photography at Franklin Elementary School. Wanting to explore alternatives to traditional photography, he wrote to Kodak. “Surprisingly, Kodak sent packets of photography literature and materials, technology on making pinhole cameras and other related products.” He began experimenting with a homemade pinhole camera and showed the photos to his students. “Immediately, I saw the students were hooked on the pinhole camera and the darkroom.”
Visitors to the exhibition will have a chance to experiment with pinhole photography themselves, using a pinhole camera. Draper and Janine Y. Bell, Elegba Folklore Society’s president and artistic director thought visitors might get a better idea of how the pinhole camera works with an example present and available to interact with.
Draper hopes that visitors to the exhibit will be inspired by the photography and gain a better understanding of what a pinhole camera is and how it works. He also hopes to instill “an appreciation of the images a pinhole camera can make.” “RVA as Seen Through the Pinhole” opens from 5 to 9 p.m. tonight and will run through Nov. 30.