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CAM student creates pinhole camera

An alternative process leads to purpose

Photography student Kay Nowicki explains her pinhole camera.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann . The Sentry

Kay Nowicki, a student at CU Denver, discovered when she was 23 that she once had a twin, but she vanished in the womb.  This phenomenon is known as vanished twin syndrome and many who suffer from it are never properly diagnosed. 

Nowicki spent countless hours since the semester began working on creating a way to communicate with her sister.  The answer was simple: a pinhole cameraPhotography’s relationship with the spiritual realm dates to early in the medium’s existence. “A camera is a threshold because there is a door that opens and allows for something else to happen,” Nowicki said in reference to why she and possibly all the spiritual photographers before her chose a dark box as a doorway to spirits. 

As part of the Bronze Casting, students must create a sculpture out of bronze. Nowicki isn’t one to waste anything, including space, time, and energy.  “That inspired me to create this camera – a sculpture that is artistically pleasing. It’s created to be looked at, but it also looks at you, to function as an oculus and to capture the things that maybe we can’t see.  I created it with her in mind.”  Nowicki explained further that the texture on her pinhole camera represented the dividing of cells. 

 “The opened rose is me and it is kind of broken and faded, trying to find purpose and existing as half a person.  The larger closed rose is my sister and kind of hovers over the open one and despite it never opening, it’s such a presence the eye is drawn to it first.”  Besides the film holder, none of this camera is manufactured.  The molds from the roses came from a bouquet of roses gifted to her after her final dance recital at the age of 18. 

Even on the technical side, Nowicki completely invested herself.  “This camera developed from many sketches, many cardboard models that did not work, lots of trigonometry and optical theory, the trouble of how to get it light tight.  And then there is a two to three percent shrinkage in bronze.”  For the film holder to fit into the back of her camera, Nowicki had to hand sand down the bronze for days. 

“I’m always going to start with a negative, which to me is like starting with the subconscious first that produces a positive image, because the negative appears to show different things than the positive.”  The second image she captured with this camera produced a face over her shoulder in a mirror.  This face does not appear in the positive image.  Nowicki seems to have achieved her goal of connecting with her vanished sister. 

“I am going to make a tripod for it next and a camera case, but it will be a series of sculptures.  I want them to be like, ‘Why would you put that camera in there, with that tripod, in that container that is so heavy and go anywhere with it?’ Because I can.  Simply because then it doesn’t just take up space.  It has a purpose.” 

A paper positive and negative taken by the pinhole camera.
Photo Courtesy of Kay Nowicki

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