The word “wallflower” was first used in the early 1800s to refer to a woman without a partner at a dance, presumably sitting against the wall. Today, it represents any person who appears or feels shy and awkward. Southern California based artist Janine Brown captures the feeling of being a wallflower in her dream-like series of pinhole camera portraits, titled “The Wallflower Project.”
The first photograph to be taken with a pinhole camera is as old as the term of “wallflower” itself. Pihole cameras are effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box, and exposures can typically range from five seconds up to as much as several hours. Brown’s choice of using the pinhole camera to create her images is key to her concept. Each image requires the photographer to spend a significant amount of time with the lonely “wallflower” subject, as well as the viewer, who needs time to distinguish the figure through the layers of exposures.
“Being married to a husband with movie star looks, I have noticed that at parties, I fade away. The term ‘invisible spouse’ comes to mind as party goers maintain eye contact with my husband in conversations, and seem to forget I am standing next to him,” Brown shares. “I conceived of “The Wallflower Project” using double exposures- portrait + wallpaper- so that the subjects literally fade into the background. The images emerge as ghostly portraits that require the viewer to take notice and spend time to see the individuals before them.” The series will make its debut at Gallery 825/Los Angeles Art Association in April.