Paul has worked in the photographic industry and education for over 40 years. His practice currently focuses on the restorative aspects of nature. He is an Associate of the RPS and is currently studying for an MA in photography. You can find him on Instagram @paul_a_williams
What is it that interests you about pinhole photography?
I like the simplicity of the pinhole camera, with the only elements involved in capturing the image onto photographic material being light and time.
What can a pinhole photograph convey that another photography medium might not?
Having a tiny hole instead of a lens has a completely different way of looking at the world than our eyes or a camera lens does. It is a very immersive experience and there is always an element of surprise in the results as you cannot always predict the outcome in the same way you can with a conventional camera.
How did you first decide to begin taking pinhole photographs and how long have you been practicing?
I used to teach photography students pinhole photography as a way of understanding the basic elements of how an image is captured for many years but was always too busy with work to be able to do much pinhole photography myself. For the last couple of years, I have semi-retired and am studying a photography MA which has given me the opportunity to use pinhole photography within my practice.
I find that some pinhole photographers are interested in the art of the form while some are more interested in mastering the technical aspects. Where do you fit on that spectrum?
I think I fit between the two. I think understanding how your camera works is important to get the best out of it, which also includes pinhole cameras, although only a basic knowledge is really needed to create great art using the medium. Once you know the rules, you can then break them and really push the boundaries of creativity.
Can you tell us a little bit about the technique you most often use to take your photographs? What is it that appeals to you about this particular technique?
Once I have found my subject, I will always examine it to find the best viewpoint and consider where the light is coming from. Other than that, I just follow the format of putting the camera on a tripod, meter for exposure then take the picture.
Where do you go for inspiration for your photography?
I get the most inspiration from immersion in the countryside and just being aware of my surroundings.
It seems like pinhole photographers have a special interest and take joy in experimenting—both with the devices they use (often homemade) and the techniques they use. Have you tried other alternative photography methods?
As well as pinhole photography I also enjoy exploring alternative processes like lumen printing, chemigrams and cyanotype prints.
Are there any projects you’re working on now or have worked on in the past that you’d like to tell us about?
As well as When the trees speak that I have been working on as a collaboration with Sandy Walker who has been writing poems to accompany my images, I am also currently working on a project called Lungs of the City, which explores the relationship between the trees which breathe life into our cities and their encompassing urban environment, showing the tree as an enduring symbol of survival in densely populated areas, through a mixture of discord and harmony between the trees and their surroundings. Both projects are shot on pinhole cameras.
Sandy is a Clinical Academic with a specialist interest in Creative and Community Approaches to Mental Distress. She has been widely published both academically and creatively. Find more at www.sanityco.uk
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your poem? For instance, how or why you wrote it, or perhaps provide some extra context?
I wrote the poem Reflections whilst out walking with Paul Williams (photographer) whilst he was
taking the picture with his pinhole camera. There is usually a period of waiting as these pictures are taken, and the scene was beautiful–quiet and inspiring–so I sat on a tree stump and got my notebook out. It was really cold and my hands were shivering after I had sat down for a while!
Why was the poetic form the best fit for this particular piece of work?
I find poetry a natural expression for me and, as a musician too, has an ebb and flow that makes it a really easy to share my thoughts and feelings.
If you didn’t write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life?
I also write songs and sing with my band Walker Broad (www.walkerbroad.co.uk) so I would do more of this and I also paint and carve wood. I can’t not create, so I would just move to another form of creativity. I couldn’t live without this very successfully I think.
How do you revise your work?
I go over the poem, changing punctuation and capitalizing words that I want emphasized. I rarely change words. They come out ready-formed as a rule. It helps to have a period elapse between writing and revision though, and I always read my work out loud. This makes any editing needed really clear I think.
What are you working on now?
Paul and I are collaborating on a body of work called When the Trees Speak. This photopoetry book will be ready for purchase in summer 2023.
How or where or with what does a poem begin?
I feel like the poem is a gift that I am given, so maybe it begins as the experience of the moment I am in, plus the place and emotional environment of my inner world.
Are there other art forms that inspire or inform your poetry?
I find all artworks whatever medium inspiring, even if I don’t like them they are still inspiring. Nature though, is the biggest inspiration of all. Life is a marvel and a wonder to behold, this is enough even without other art forms.
How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine?
This is a constant issue. I am very lucky that poems often come fully formed and when I have those spaces to stop whilst out, I always carry a notebook and write fast!
What are you reading or watching or listening to lately that intrigues or inspires you?
I have lots of books on the go. I am currently reading about Equine Assisted Therapy as this is one of my jobs and really inspires me. I am opening up to a new way of helping people which requires me to let go of the illusion of control and trust the client and the nature of the horse to provide the answers once expected of me as a therapist. I am unlearning, this is inspiring.
Have you ever received advice (or has there been something you’ve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it?
Keep doing it, like any muscle it only gets stronger if you exercise it!
Do you belong to a writer’s group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback?
I’m not currently in a writers group due to lack of time though I have been in the past, and they can be so helpful. I get feedback from audiences when the band performs and occasionally read my poetry at festivals. They are always well received so I take comfort and validation from this.
In terms of poetic style or craft, is there a big question you are trying to find an answer for?
I think probably how to live the best of my ability and be a brick in the building of a better world for all.
Read their collaborative photopoetry piece Reflections in the April 2023 issue.