Afterimage: Tod Ainslie’s Vision of the War of 1812

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4×5 Pinhole Camera. This is a dual 3″ and 6″ focal length camera with pinholes mounted front and back, separated by the 4×5 film holder slot, located in front of the handle. Built and used by photographer Tod Ainslie. © ROM 2012 (Click on this image to see more photographs.)

4×5 Pinhole Camera. This is a dual 3″ and 6″ focal length camera with pinholes mounted front and back, separated by the 4×5 film holder slot, located in front of the handle. Built and used by photographer Tod Ainslie. © ROM 2012 (Click on this image to see more photographs.)

On view at the Royal Ontario Museum through February 24, 2013, Afterimage is a collection of 21st century photographs taken at battle sites of the War of 1812 by photographer Tod Ainslie. Ainslie built and used 3 different pinhole cameras (an invention that was not available in 1812) to make the approximately 2,000 images he took over the nine-year project. The photographs in the exhibition are accompanied by technical information on how the image was taken plus details about the significance of the location.

Asked about his artistic motivation for this project, Ainslie explained, “When I was teaching the introductory pinhole camera unit in my photo classes, I discovered a medium that I felt had not yet been fully explored, so was the perfect vehicle for my interests and also my desire for innovation. I had been interested in the War of 1812 since I was a Canadian child visiting my American father in New York and hearing about the battles that had been fought between what amounted to my two countries. In 1999 I finally built my first pinhole camera and began to research and travel to the War of 1812 sites that I had become so interested in.”

Ainslie chose to use this most basic camera to capture the locations, and he describes his photographs as “Daguerre-like.” The three different self-built wooden pinhole cameras allowed Ainslie to achieve a variety of aesthetic results. By clicking on the above photo, you can see photographs of the three cameras along with an image from each.

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