Posted on Leave a comment

A (very) brief history of pinhole photography

5th century B.C.

Chinese scholars discovered that light travels in straight lines. The philosopher Mo Ti recorded the formation of an inverted image with a pinhole.


Drawing by the astronomer Gemma Frisus’ De Radio illustrating the principal of the pinhole camera. He used the pinhole in his darkened room to study a solar eclipse.

16th Century

Leonardo da Vinci  gave a clear description of the principals of the pinhole camera in his notebooks: “When the images of illuminated objects pass through a small round hole into a very dark room…you will see on paper all those objects in their natural shapes and colours.”

1822 to 1839

Development of the first light sensitive processes for capturing images . From Joseph Nic Ophore Niepce in Sir John Hershel in 1839.


Sir David Brewster is believed to make some of the first pinhole photographs. He wrote about it in the1850’s in his book “The Stereoscope” It was the first time that the word “pin-hole” was first coined.


Flinders Petrie, a prominent archeologist took many pinhole photographs during his excavations in Egypt.


Lowestoft born photographer George Davison exhibits “The onon field” a pinhole camera photograph in the 1890 exhibition of the Royal Photographic society . This led to a brief period of interest in the technique. Following a brief flourishing of the commercial production of pinhole cameras the technique largely disapeared in the early 20th century except for educational interest.


Several artists, unaware of each other, began experimenting with the pinhole technique – Paolo Gioli in Italy, Gottfried Jäger in Germany, David Lebe, Franco Salmoiraghi, Wiley Sanderson and Eric Renner in the USA.


Jim Schull publishes “The Hole Thing: A Manual of Pinhole Photography a paperback book which popularised the technique and remains a valuable resource today.


On the 29th of April the first World Pinhole photography day was held.


Read how to make your own pinhole camera

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *