Ghostly black-and-white images of a timeless coastline fill Martha Casanave's collection of photography titled "Coastal Pinholes." The collection is represented in a book, "Explorations Along an Imaginary Coastline," published in 2006 by Hudson Hill Press.
Casanave will be signing copies of the book at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1400 Biddle Road, Medford. A digital presentation of images from the book will be available.
Although Casanave had been involved in photography since her childhood, she graduated from the Monterey Institute of International Studies with a degree in Russian language and literature and began working as a translator in Washington, D.C.
When Casanave returned to the Monterey Peninsula on the central coast of California, she began pursuing photographic work and became well-known for her signature black-and-white nudes and portraits. She began showing her work widely, and her photographs are displayed at fine art museums and in private collections. She was awarded an Imogen Cunningham Photography Award in 1979 and a Koret Israel Prize in 1989. She has taught around the country and abroad, currently teaching regularly at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, at Monterey Peninsula College and at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Photographers such as Edward Weston, his son Brett Weston and then Ansel Adams started a tradition of black-and-white landscape photography along the Monterey Peninsula in the early 1900s. Later, photographers Morley Baer, Wynn Bullock, Al Weber, Richard Garrod and Henry Gilpin followed. Casanave became acquainted with Adams, Brett Weston, Baer and others and they became her friends and colleagues. In fact, she has photographed nearly all of them during indoor portrait sittings.
It wasn't until a friend asked Casanave to join him while photographing the rocks near Hopkins Marine Station that she discovered the coast's natural scene.
Casanave already had done some photography with pinhole cameras. One of her collections includes "Pinhole Narratives," a study of scenarios and nudes taken in her studio. Another project, "Leningrad in Winter," captures the abstract landscapes and architecture of Russia during one of Casanave's trips to the Soviet Union. For these projects, Casanave had adapted conventional cameras with pinholes.
Pinholes do not use conventional glass lenses, but extremely small holes in thin, reflective material that can focus light by confining all the rays from a scene through a single point.
For her trip to Hopkins Marine Station, Casanave took a wooden box pinhole camera that she used for classroom demonstrations.
Pinhole photography requires long exposure times, and it is what gives the images a fuzzy quality. As Casanave began capturing images of the natural scenes on the Monterey Peninsula using a pinhole, she soon recognized their dream-like qualities and began photographing what she refers to as "the unnatural scene" or "the supernatural scene."
Without the use of a tripod, Casanave sets her camera on the rocks or the sand along the shoreline. The long time dilations allow water to become cloud, person to become ghost. The open pinhole allows sand and dirt onto the negatives and gives each image its share of anomalies.
See "Coastal Pinholes" at marthacasanave.com, along with new images that are part of a series of underwater pinhole photographs by Casanave.
Casanave's first book, "Past Lives: Photographs by Martha Casanave," was published by Godine in 1991. Her pinhole work has appeared in several journals, including a 1991 issue of View Camera. A selection of her pinhole work was included in "Reframings: New American Feminist Photographies" in 1995. She was included in the "Women and Creativity" issue of Camera Arts, and her interview, "Martha Casanave: The Receptive Eye," was included in the 1998 issue of Photographers' Forum.