Camera-Free Photography: 30 Photogram & Pinhole Photos

camera free photography
Looking at some of the most impressive contemporary photography, it’s easy to believe that sophisticated equipment is necessary.  Thoughts of prohibitively expensive cameras and all of the other trappings of professional photography have dissuaded plenty of would-be photographers over the years.  But amazing images have been made for centuries without any help from cameras using creatively strange pinhole and photogram photography techniques.


puja photogram of negative

puja photogram leaves

(images via: Puja)

Photograms are, quite simply, photographs made without a camera.  Items are placed on photo-sensitive paper and the whole setup is exposed to light.  After processing, the exposed areas will be dark and the areas covered by the items will appear as negative spaces.  The method is popularly associated with the artist Man Ray, who called his images rayographs.

The Human Photograms of Mark Magnan

mark magnan photograms

mark magnan photograms

(images via: Magnum Opus)

Since the image is produced directly onto paper, there is no negative.  Each photogram is a one-of-a-kind work of art.  And because of the unique process, the images can come out looking surreal, delicate, alien, ghostly, or just indescribably different than we expect.  The above photograms from Mark Magnan show how the human form can look like a toy when it’s reproduced with this ancient method.  These photograms used exceptionally large pieces of photographic paper to capture the real human subjects.

The Natural Photograms of Angela Easterling

angela easterling photograms

(images via: Angela Easterling)

One of the first applications of photograms was documenting botanical specimens.  The small size and intricate details of the subjects made them ideal for this unique form of recording.  These botanical photograms from Angela Easterling take on an otherwordly interior glow while perfectly capturing every earthy detail of the organic subjects.

The Exploratory Photograms of Keith Carter

keith carter photograms

(images via: Keith Carter Photographs)

When Keith Carter set out to create a series of photograms, his intention was to pay homage to William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the most significant people in the development of modern photography.  What resulted was a wholly unique and breathtaking series of photograms depicting everything from human and animal bones to botanical specimins and lacy handkerchiefs.  Although these photograms are modern, it’s easy to imagine them being hundreds of years old.

The Large-Scale Photograms of Glenn Freidel

glenn friedel photograms

(images via: Glenn Friedel)

Using photography to convey motion is certainly not a foreign prospect to most photographers, but photograms are a different story.  The very idea of a photogram seems to conflict with the concept of motion.  Glenn Friedel manages to break through that barrier with his brilliantly colored large-scale photograms picturing human models.  Though static, their bodies appear to be in motion and full of life.

Pinhole Photography

stephen carter pinhole photo

stephen carter pinhole photo

(images via: Stephen Carter)

Many of us have fond memories of making pinhole cameras in school.  These simple machines are little more than light-proof boxes, but they can produce some stunning and singularly beautiful pictures.  Amazingly, pinhole cameras can be made from nearly anything: oatmeal boxes, suitcases, paint cans, mobile phones…in fact, just about any container that can be made light-proof can be a pinhole camera.

The Pinhole Photography of Mark Tweedie

mark tweedie pinhole

mark tweedie pinhole

mark tweedie pinhole

(images via: F295)

When Icarus attempted flight, he met with a disastrous end.  When Mark Tweedie attempted to depict the Icarus’ joy during his short flight, he created amazing images full of life and mystery.  Because of the unique properties of pinhole photography, the images it produces can look completely manufactured or overly realistic.  Mark Tweedie’s “Dream of Flight” series strikes a perfect balance between stark reality and fanciful mystery.

The Pinhole Photography of Erika Dudaite

erike dudaite pinhole photography chess game

(images via:

Something about pinhole photography makes even the most mundane subjects seem ethereal and truly special.  Lithuanian photographer Erika Dudaite transforms a chess game into an otherworldly match of wits with her excellent execution of pinhole photography.

The Suitcase Pinhole Photography of Andrius Narvicius

andrius narvicius suitcase pinhole photography

andrius narvicius suitcase pinhole photography

andrius narvicius suitcase pinhole photography

(images via:

Andrius Narvicius, another Lithuanian photographer, created these gorgeous images using a suitcase converted to a pinhole camera.  There is a certain charming quality to his photos that makes it evident how much he cares for both the subject and the tools he uses.  Andrius has created a number of unusual pinhole cameras from a variety of containers.