The Frame



The frame is a structure that can be used to:

  • Enclose
  • Isolate
  • Edit
  • Focus
  • Shade our view of something else

The frame traditionally enhances the subject, however for this project the frame will be the subject.

How we use the frame composes the image, creating a narrative.

“Perhaps we should look between things rather than at things” – John Baldessari

 Think about exploring inside and outside of the frame.

Window Frame

– Real world, hence no control over what enters this frame.

– Transparent.

– Camera Obscura.

– Windows opening/closing often symbolises opportunities.

– Doors (in their door frames) creaking, symbolises fear and the unknown.

– Windows smashing symbolises a violation of privacy, aggressive forced entry and violation of safety.


– Constructed, hence everything is a series of choices.

– Perspective changes.

– Selective view.

– It’s a point of view.

‘Rear Window’ (1954)

– Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

– American suspense film

The main character is a photographer who breaks his leg whilst attempting to take a spectacular photograph. As a result he is confined to his apartment for weeks. His rear window overlooks a small courtyard and several other apartments. Over a hot summer he watches his neighbours, who leave their windows open all the time due to a heatwave, and witnesses what he suspects to be a murder by one of his neighbours. The spends the remainder of the film watching his neighbours to try and find out the truth.

I watched the first 30 mins of this film and from what I saw, it demonstrated the principles of the frame extremely well.


Perspective is an important factor of framing, the best example of this is anamorphic perspective.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Eye’ is the first recorded example of anamorphic perspective, done in 1485.

leonardos eye-1

Only from the correct viewpoint will you be able to view the image without distortion. Often the viewpoint of a painting is distorted by the position in which the painting in hung.

wrong perspectiveBy tracing parallel lines we can work out the original intended viewpoint.

perspective lines drawingsArtists who use anamorphic design:

These artists are using colour to override form.

Noble and Webster

‘Wild Mood Swings’, 2009-10

If the light source was placed at any other angle, the image would not work. This is an example of selective view and choices.

Christian Stoll

stoll‘H.O.P.E’, unknown date

Georges Rousse

georges rousse

rousse casablanca

georges rousse2

georges rousse3

Zander Olsen

zander olsen 2

zander olsen

zander olsen 3

Telice Varini

telice varini 2 telice varini telice varini 3

Two artists who play with framing include Gavin Hammond, and John Stezaker.

Gavin Hammond

london in puddles2london in puddles3london in puddles 4london in puddles

John Stezaker


Pinhole cameras

A pinhole camera is made up of a single small aperture. The smaller the hole the sharper the image, but the longer the image needs to be exposed for. And the image tends to be dimmer.

3608 Ilford Photo Pinhole Exposure Calculator v2 AW

My first pinhole camera:

film pinhole camera


The camera was made up of a tin with a removable, light tight lid. The light sensitive photographic paper would be placed at this end. At the opposite end I made a small hole in the centre, I then covered this in a layer of thick foil and pierced this with a pin. The inside was spray painted black. I attached pens in the sides of the tin to make it more stable.

img240 copy img240 invert

Initially when I saw my negatives I was slightly disappointed, it seemed like a lot of work for a handful of small just about visible images. However when I inverted them my mood was lifted and the few days of running around college pointing my tin at things for a prolonged amount of time, seemed more worthwhile. The paper had captured far more detail than I had expected it to, especially in images like the bottom two. However due to a lack of chemicals, this was not a process I could see myself pursuing for the remainder of the project.

Camera Obscura

“Chamber/room” “Dark”

In an effort to better understand how the process of a pinhole camera worked, I started to experiment with camera obscures. The concept of a camera obscura is the same as a pinhole camera.

I attempted to make my own camera obscura. However it was a very cloudy day, so in order to record the images, I needed exposure times of around 60 seconds. This meant that there was a fair amount of camera shake, causing the images to be blurrier than I had intended.


I also attempted to make a camera obscura box. My first attempt did not work at all because I was using black plastic which proved to be too reflective.

image-1So I changed it to a material with a more matte finish. Ideally, for a clearer image, the box would be placed in a dark room. However as this was only an experiment to see if I could get any outcome at all, I didn’t put too much effort into blacking out the room and simply suspended it in-between blinds.


imageAnd eventually I ended up with this image of clouds on my tracing paper screen. It’s not a particularly good image at all, but when it did appear, it was exciting to see the process working.


Film Pinhole Cameras

After experimenting with paper inside my pinhole camera, it seemed logical that I experimented with film inside it next. However instead of trying out the process and construction to create a matchbox pinhole camera using one of many guides on the internet, I decided to jump straight in and try to make a pinhole camera from a melon. I liked the idea of a ‘melons eye view’ of the world, melon perspective. And I wanted to take photos of things that a melon might see, such as:

  • Looking out from a fruit bowl
  • Inside of a carrier bag
  • On the supermarket shelf
  • In a crate full of melons
  • Inside the veg room in the supermarket
  • In a salad
  • In a desert
  • In a fridge
  • On a chopping board
  • In a blender

Thinking about it now, I have no idea why I decided on a melon in particular. It just seemed to right;

which it was not.grid 1 grid 2 grid 3

photo 4

I hollowed out a melon, attempted to best it as best that I could, and painted the inside of it black. The main flaw in this design was that melons are mainly made up of water, so when they do eventually dry out, they tend to crumble. This causes the whole thing to collapse, meaning the whole process was quite a large waste of time, effort and film.


So with my next camera, I decided to probably go with a step by step guide on how to make a pinhole camera. However my version was not massively tight, and after a few photographs the front section fell off, exposing the film.

image image[1]


I then attempted the matchbox pinhole camera.


Photo 16-04-2013 13 01 51

The whole thing instantly felt much sturdier than my previous cameras, giving me a bit more confidence in this one. So I shot my film in it, made up of photographs of inside and outside of my home, just as a test film, to see if it worked and how I could improve upon it.

Photo 22-04-2013 22 28 16

When I received my film back from snappy snaps I was slightly disappointed, from what it looked like, my camera had vaguely worked. Producing quite faint, blurry images of what I could make out as areas from around my house. However when I went back and looked at the actual physical film, I couldn’t make out anything on it, and my conclusion was that I had overexposed it.

Out of curiosity I wanted to see how snappy snaps had got these images from such an overexposed film, so I attempted to scan it using my printer at home, which didn’t work.

failed scnned negsI then scanned it at uni, using a proper negative scanner and got a very different result.

sketch 1

And then inverted it.sketch 1bI then played around with the levels of the image using photoshop, and got this:

sketch 1c

It appeared that there were no definite frames on my negatives to divide my images which was really unusual. I went back and looked at my pinhole camera to find that the one that I built was slightly bigger than the one in the guide, and where they had recommended that I wound my film on for ‘6 clicks’ each time I took a photo, my camera probably needed about 10 clicks. Meaning that as a result, all my images overlapped each other, causing it to feel panorama-ish.

This is the remainder of the negatives:sketch sketch 2I then went on to place the five sections back together to recreate the negative film, but with edited levels so the content was still visible.

film mashed together smaller edit

Due to its width, the image appears quite low quality on screen, however this is not the case. So the detailed content of the negative can be viewed more clearly, I split the image into 6 sections, displayed in order from left to right.

for web

My brief specified that I needed a set of at least 6 images that explore and exploit the notion of frame and narrative. And looking at my film strip split up like this, I felt, just didn’t do it justice. What made it so interesting was that it was made up from many images, but no frames.

I attempted to recreate this panoramic effect 3 more times using my pinhole camera, but all this usage caused my camera to become weaker and weaker, causing it to leak light and expose the films.

At this point I was loosing patience with pinhole photography, exposing 3x 24 frame films took me quite awhile, and to have spent all that time composing photographs and experimenting, to end up with blank film. It was starting to get to me and the deadline was closing in on me. I needed to stop and think about what I needed to do.

  • I needed a faster way of getting images.  
  • I needed to sort out my subject matter and narrative.

I came across the image below on Facebook, and although initially the two cute dogs caught my attention, when I looked again I thought the perspective was interesting.

Boo Photo


I liked the way that you were seeing pretty much what the 3 figures were seeing, but through their legs. I thought that perhaps I could explore this angle, as well as researching into body language and what someone’s shoes may say about them.

In many cultures shoes represented someone’s social stays. The poorest had nothing to cover their feet, while the upper classes covered them in high quality material. In terms of body language, it would seem that people are often so busy controlling their facial and torso behaviour, that they often forget about their feet. It is said that you can tell a lot about how someone really feels from observing their leg and foot movements. When someone moves their feet it indicates a change in brain activity, and feet that suddenly freeze indicate stress. A person who has their legs crossed is a sign of being comfortable and trusting those around you, because you are unbalanced. If you were going to physically confront someone you would have your legs far apart for balance and steadiness.

I decided to explore this angle using a digital pinhole camera.

Using an online guide, I drilled a hole into the centre of my canon DSLR’s body cap, covered the hole in foil and pierced it with a pin.

Photo 12-04-2013 13 03 16 Photo 12-04-2013 13 03 23The results weren’t as good as I had hoped for. My images were blurry, and there was a fair amount of dust inside my camera body. With regards to taking photographs of in-between peoples legs, due to the long exposure times to create the images, my unsuspecting subjects did not keep their feet still enough and added to the image blur.

_MG_5824_MG_5828_MG_5829_MG_5831cat legs_MG_5823 In an attempt to create better images, I decided to go back and try and understand more about how pinhole cameras worked and the terminology.

Focal Length:

– The distance from the pinhole to the plane.

– 25mm in my matchbox, and probably about 50mm in my DSLR?

– It effects the optimal diameter of my pinhole and image sharpness.

Pinhole Diameter:

– The pinhole diameter in my matchbox is 0.8mm.

-Meaning that the focal length should be 360mm.

Film Dimension:

-The diagonal distance of the plane.

F stop = focal length/ pinhole diameter

I did the maths and realised in order to get sharper images from my DSLR I would need a tiny pinhole diameter of 0.2mm. So I went out and found the thinnest needle that I could, and pierced a hole in a slightly thicker foil, which apparently would also improve my image.


But my results seemed no different. So I decided to abandon this digital approach as I was running out of time. My digital images just weren’t as effective as the film or paper outcomes. So I went back to my most successful outcome, the frameless film strip.

I needed to find a way of displaying it as it seemed most effective, as a long frameless strip, but as 6 separate images. It wasbeginning bothering me so much that I couldn’t decide on where one frame should end and another should begin, and suddenly I realised that I shouldn’t, I should let my audience decide. When I first took my film to snappy snaps to be developed, they decided which images were to be framed, and which parts got left out. So I decided to let my audience do the same.

I printed the whole image, (which levels adjusted), on acetate, and was then spray mounted onto a strip of white card. I made sure that the height of the film was 35mm, just like the negative film.

Photo 18-04-2013 14 23 38


I then made my own moveable frame dividers from plastic, which were placed on to the strip, and could be moved along the image. These frame dividers are the width of frame dividers used on actual negative film.

Photo 18-04-2013 14 44 16

When it came to presenting my work and asking my audience to move the five frame dividers to create 6 images which they thought worked best, I got quite mixed results.

My first volunteer arranged them like this:


Photo 19-04-2013 12 09 03And my second volunteer arranged the frame dividers so that there were 6 equal sections, like the images I created first:

for web

And my third volunteer arranged the dividers like this:

Photo 19-04-2013 12 52 24What was so interesting about this process was watching the thought process of people moving the dividers. Where the more they looked into the image the more they doubted their initial placements.


I found myself really engaging in this project. And although at times it seemed to really drag, as well as being extremely frustrating when things didn’t work and you felt as if you had wasted your time, I am pleased with my interactive outcome. I feel like it challenged people on what they thought they knew, and made them really think about how important framing is.




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