With his Sonoran Desert series, Christopher Harris continues to explore the landscape of the American West using pinhole cameras. A pinhole, literally a hole made with the point of a needle, projects an inverted image of a scene onto paper or film. First used by artists as a drawing aid, the pinhole was adapted to photography cameras in the late 19th century. Today it is an alternative for photographers interested in the unique effects the pinhole produces. Varying his pinhole, the construction of his homemade cameras, and various film stocks, Harris’s work has ranged from black and white garden panoramas to abstract color landscapes. To capture the often unseen beauty of the Sonoran desert for this series, he mounted a pinhole “lens” on a digital camera, and utilized a flash to illuminate the desert in the foreground.
Outside Tucson, Arizona, saguaros blanket the hills and desert floor in the national park named for that cactus. Living about 200 years, saguaros grow to more than 40 feet. It’s an impressive sight. But a short walk into the desert, whether in the park or through patches of desert in Tucson’s neighborhoods, reveals other pleasures for those who look: the graceful curve of an ocotillo, a cholla cactus whose beauty belies its dangerous spines, a cascade of white flowers among the saguaro. Harris brings these moments of discovery to us with his pinhole photographs.