Birmingham Camera Obscura is an independent project run by Jenny Duffin and Pete Ashton. We are not part of any organisation and are registered as a Community Interest Company. Our mission is to build and develop camera obscuras in Birmingham with the long term aim of establishing a permanent one in the city.
Jenny and Pete met in 2013 while running a pinhole photography workshop together. They got on well and somehow found themselves blacking out a room on the top floor of the Rotunda to turn it into a giant camera. This kinda cemented their working relationship. While Birmingham Obscura is a true collaboration, Jenny and Pete try to divide the work according to their strengths.
Jenny is an independent creative producer who is relatively early on in her career in arts and events management in Birmingham. Last year she was the director of the Birmingham Architecture Festival and programmed an extensive series of events for Birmingham Loves Photographers alongside regular work for Creative Alliance. More about Jenny’s work on her website, jennyduffin.com.
Jenny is in charge of programming, which means she ensures the camera gets out as much as possible to as many people as possible, while still being a viable, sustainable operation. She also reins Pete in when he gets a bit carried away.
Pete is an artist and photographer with a background in self-publishing and DIY media. He was a zine publisher in the ’90s, a blogger since 2000 and an early adopter of social media. Alongside this project his main venture is Photo School, an independent operation where he teaches beginners photography and leads photo walks around Birmingham. Pete is based at Birmingham Open Media where he is a Fellow and information about his activities can be found via peteashton.com
Pete is in charge of the artistic development of the project, channelling an interest in the fundamentals of cameras and photography into the project. He wants to use the camera obscura in new ways and build cameras that push this technology to the limits. He also reins Jenny in when she gets carried away.
The Birmingham Camera Obscura artwork and design is undertaken by Gareth Courage. His work uses a broad based photo-graphic collage style to create dynamic, digital imagery that gives a handmade, textured feel. The use of vector and typographical elements developed from historical ephemera often underpins the designs. This is supported by a deep interest in vernacular and found imagery, artist films and film-based photography. Gareth is freelance and comes highly recommended.
Birmingham Camera Obscura is a resident research project at Birmingham Open Media. This means we have access to studio and co-working office space to run the project and build cameras. BOM is open Tuesday – Saturday and you are very welcome to visit.
Our 2015 camera obscura was funded through a Kickstarter campaign which raised £2500 from these people. It was then built by Matthew Moore, a carpenter based at Minerva Works in Digbeth. We can highly recommend him!
The mirror and lens housing was generously donated by Tim Norgate of Pinhole Solutions in Bearwood. Tim was building camera obscuras a decade or so ago and shares our desire to see a permanent one in Birmingham. His advice and contact have been invaluable.