Art Works: Pauline Woolley's Sunshine Photography

27 July 16 words: Art Works

This combined photographic image of the sun moving across the sky, in both Spain and the Maldives, was created using a homemade pinhole camera and a 35mm camera

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Chasing Suns 52 & 3 degrees #3

This combined photographic image of the sun moving across the sky, in both Spain and the Maldives, was created using a homemade pinhole camera and a 35mm camera. Instead of film, I use darkroom photographic printing paper, or ‘paper negatives’. The thin line is an exposure of around eight hours and the dots were taken in intervals of around twenty minutes, in short bursts. The photos were then laid on top of each other to create the final image, which was printed onto photo rag paper.

Around five years ago, I came across a written piece stating that our perception of the sun’s movement changes depending on where we are in the world. I’d never thought about that before. At the same time, I came across an article by Tarja Trygg, a lecturer at Helsinki University. She was running an art/science project, asking participants to place her handmade pinhole cameras in different locations so she could track the sun’s movement in terms of equatorial positions in the world.

I contacted her and set up the cameras, exposing for three months, and the results weren’t that great, but the lines left on the paper from the sun really intrigued me – both the scientific element and the prospect of exploiting the drawing and line elements. I started to pursue it obsessively. It’s taken five years to fully understand the technical aspects of making successful images of this kind. It takes patience, as exposures last anything from a few hours to a few months.

Audiences really don’t understand what the lines represent at first. When it’s revealed they’re looking at the sun, they’re often flabbergasted. We never see the sun in this way, but it’s there all the time. Some people have commented that this image looks like UFOs landing, while others have said that the line looks very mathematical.

Many years ago, I specialised in painting at Leeds Metropolitan. Since graduation, I have continued to make and exhibit work, as well as work as Media and Photography Technical Assistant at a local college. There, I run a large black and white darkroom, which has shaped my passion’s transition from paint to the photographic image, specifically analogue photography.

I make the most of the college holidays to pack up my kit and head somewhere to make images and explore, although I have been creating work in my own garden this year. It’s become my own immediate skyscape. I’d love to spend a month in somewhere like Svalbard in the Arctic Circle during the time of the midnight sun. That’d be an experience.

Chasing Suns 52 & 3 degrees #3 is from the series Chasing Suns and was shown at Format International Photography Festival in 2015 as part of a PhotoForum collective. More recently, it was seen at Lady Bay Arts Festival 2016.

Pauline Woolley website

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