Rightnowish: Stepping Inside Chris Fraser's Pinhole Camera

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Chris Fraser explains how his installation works. (Pendarvis Harshaw/KQED)

Chris Fraser is a trained photographer who’s taken his craft to another dimension: for his current exhibition Windows, he invites attendees to step inside of a pinhole camera.

I first met Chris at a birthday party where most of the attendees were African American. Chris, a tall white guy with glasses, stood out from the crowd. After being introduced, we talked a bit about his artwork, and he attempted to explain his creation as best he could. (I say “attempted” because you can imagine how hard it is to explain an immersive pinhole camera while a bunch of toddlers run circles around your conversation.)

Chris Fraser in the shadows
Chris Fraser, in the shadows. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Days later, Chris, who’s also a father of a young child, found time to talk over the phone. He told me how he spent time in nearly every part of California before settling in Oakland, where he works as a part-time teacher at Mills College. In addition to being an educator, he practices photography, but his latest expression of the craft is more about constructing contraptions than creating photos.

Chris uses natural light beamed through the wooden slats found inside the plaster walls of old houses—a material called lath. As the earth moves, the sun’s beams shine through the crevices of the lath, creating small circular images on the ground of the gallery that look almost like the sun itself.

Chris Fraser's latest installation
Chris Fraser’s latest installation. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Chris explained how this act of art toes the line of science and spirituality. To hear our full conversation, check out the audio link above—or, better yet, see it for yourself. Windows runs through April 21 at the Royal Nonesuch Gallery in Oakland. Details here.