This latest edition of the Zine Review and Interview series takes a look at Ballpark by Herschel Pollard, a publication packed full of his pinhole baseball photography.
Using a non-standard technique to shoot a consistently-themed set of photographs sounds to me like a recipe for a good zine, and I’m pleased to say that Herschel has indeed cooked up something rather nice.
It features images from 16 different ballparks shot over 6 years, which just goes to show – you never know what you’re shooting today might lead to in the future.
We’ll expand on that idea later as first up, as is tradition around here, is the interview with the creator. After you’ve heard from Herschel I’ll be back with some thoughts of my own.
Enjoy the interview, take as much inspiration and information as you can from it, and I’ll see you afterwards.
About you, pinhole photography, and baseball
Who are you, Herschel Pollard, and how long have you been doing pinhole photography? And where can people find you online – socials, website, anything else?
I’m Herschel Pollard, a Nashville native (and since I still live here, I’m considered a unicorn since the city is now overrun by folks who moved here over the past 20 years).
I began shooting pinholes in 2003 when I made my first pinhole camera using foamcore and a Polaroid 4×5 back. I shot Type 55 Polaroid film using that camera until I got my first Zero Image 6×9 in 2005 and switched over to 120 film.
I started getting serious about my pinhole work around the same time, starting a blog called SquarePegPinhole. The site still exists, but I removed most of the older content when I deleted my Flickr account a few years ago.
For the uninitiated, like me, what exactly is pinhole photography? Do you personally use an ‘actual’ camera with a pinhole lens cap or have you made a whole new contraption from something else? And what is it about this type of photography that keeps you doing it?
So, pinhole is delightfully simple; No settings to set, no viewfinder to viewfind, no glass to focus … just a film plane and a hole. I like shooting pinholes for several reasons.
Reason one why I like to shoot pinhole: it slows me down. In college a photo professor of mine said he stopped taking his camera on vacations because he realized, so consumed with taking photos, he missed unique family moments.
I had the same issue: I’d see images after the vacation but barely remembered the moments I shot them. Pinhole requires me to slow down. I’m not shooting slivers in time, but rather whole slabs (a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours). I use the time to enjoy the landscape or the sunset or the waves or the ball game or the people I’m with.
Reason two: infinite depth of field. It forces me to take into account every part of the scene. It’s great for landscapes, but can also make for some amazing close-up images.
Reason three… (honestly, I can go one for a while, so I’ll just leave it at two).
The majority of my pinhole cameras are specifically made. Commercially available ones, like Zero Image and Reality-So-Subtle (I highly recommend both companies), typically shoot 120 or 35mm film and are easy to use. In fact, once you understand the basics, it’s difficult to take a poor shot with them.
I do make many of my own cameras, too. I’m not skilled enough to make my own film shooters, so I’ll typically convert an old camera with a pinhole lens. I also like to build cameras that shoot instant film, like Polaroid, but the film is unreliable for pinhole and cost-prohibitive.
Finally, I have made pinhole caps for my SLR cameras, but I’ve never liked the images from them (although my favorite series of abstracts I made using a pinhole cap on my Nikon digital camera…but it took more than 3000 images for me to find four that I liked well enough to print).
I see one of the night time shots (above) in Ballpark was done on Portra 160. What sort of exposure time would that have needed? In fact, what sort of exposure time do you typically go with? And do the relatively long exposure times mean you always use a low ISO film like the 160 for your pinhole photography?
Kodak Portra 160 is my go-to film. It gives reliable results. I’ve shot it enough in my Zero Image (f/235) that I guesstimate my exposures.
I know most Major League Baseball parks (or other professional sports) will require a 4-5 minute exposure at night. I can go longer if I want (or forget I’m taking a shot) and it’s usually fine. For daytime shots in full sun, a second or two works, but the film is forgiving enough that an extra second or two won’t kill the image.
I’ll shoot a high ISO if I know I’ll be shooting at night in places that aren’t well lit, but again, I’m fine with standing on a street corner for 10 or 20 minutes waiting for a shot.
I love to shoot Ilford for black and white but the reciprocity failure curve is murder and it’s less forgiving in terms of under / overexposure.
My favorite black and white film, the ISO 50 Ilford Pan F+, I use only for daytime shooting. It requires about 4 seconds in full sun, and I once calculated an indoor shot that was fairly dark would require something ridiculous like 100 hours.
I like slow photography, but I’m not hip to standing around for a few days.
Looking at where the images were shot, you’ve been to a lot of ballparks. We have groundhoppers here in the UK who go to as many different football grounds as they can and keep track of everywhere they’ve been. Is that a thing in the US and is that what you’ve been doing? Trying to go to all the MLB stadiums?
I think there are folks who try and visit all the different ballparks (baseball or American football) but since the country is so large, I don’t think it’s as popular as it is in England.
Yes, I am trying to pinhole all of the Major League Baseball parks. I have half so far, but honestly, by the time I shoot the other half some of the first half parks will be decommissioned and I’ll need to go back to shoot the new parks.
The ballpark for the Atlanta Braves is a prime example. My images are from Turner Field. The Braves played their last game there in 2016. At some point I hope to go shoot them at their new ballpark located just outside Atlanta.
What is your favourite ballpark you’ve been to, and which one(s) do you most want to go to that you haven’t yet?
It’s hard to pin down a favorite ballpark for me. I love the history of old parks like Wrigley (Chicago Cubs) and Fenway (Boston Red Sox), but the new parks are more comfortable.
I love Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles) because they did a great job of capturing the feeling of the old parks while still offering the amenities of the newer ones. Architecturally speaking, my favorite is Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers) because it feels like you’re walking into an industrial revolution steampunk fever dream.
I’m looking forward to visiting the west-coast parks one day. I want to see Petco Field (San Diego Padres) because they incorporated an abandoned warehouse in their design. After that, I want to see Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners) for their retractable roof.
About the Ballpark zine
What made you want to make a zine from your baseball pinhole photographs? And when did you first get the idea to do so, seeing as they date from 2012 to 2018? Was there a point where you were shooting knowing they were for a zine or did the idea come after they’d all been shot?
The idea for the zine came after the pandemic began. A good pinhole friend of mine (Alex Yates) had made a few zines of his travels in Japan that I admired. A few other folks I knew made zines, too.
I needed something to fill my extra time at home, so I taught myself Adobe InDesign and laid out my idea. The ballpark series made the most sense to me as a solid project theme since it was something beyond just ‘here are some pinhole photos I made.’
My goal now is to shoot the other 15 or so parks, make another zine, and then put everything together as something more substantial.
How did you put the zine together? Who did you use for printing? What did you like about their service, what did you think they did well? Also did you gauge interest for the zine beforehand or did you just do it and then told people about it afterwards?
I used Mixam because a couple of others recommended them.
I initially began by using their online software, but ended up switching to Adobe InDesign because I wanted more control of the final product. InDesign was a bit of a learning curve, but I’m glad I took the extra time.
Mixam, for their part, warned me that I’d made a mistake with my bleed edges and allowed me to resubmit. They didn’t have to do that, since I’d already clicked ‘yes, I’m sure it’s ready to print,’ … it made me like them even more.
The finished zines looked far better than I thought they would, so ‘pleased with their product and service’ is an understatement.
I did ask a couple of folks if they’d be interested in something like this, and got a solid yes in response. Figured the worst case scenario is I’d be out a couple hundred bucks for a solid stack of fire starters.
Luckily I sold every copy and broke even, so I ended up with the best case scenario.
Do you have any personal favourite images from the zine? If so, are they because of the quality of the images themselves or because of when and where they were shot, or something else?
The first of my two favorite images (above) is a piece of popcorn on the ground next to a seat at Yankees Stadium. It encapsulates so much of what I love about film pinhole… infinite depth of field, long exposures showing motion, super wide angle, the dynamic range film can offer.
The other image (below) is from Camden Yards. It’s of a guy in the crowd looking at the camera. The shot was more than 10 seconds, which means he gawked for a really long time. I remember he asked “what’s that thing?”
My friend Danny, who was my baseball road trip partner and knew nothing about pinhole, had heard my spiel so many times that he explained what it was, how it works, that it uses film…
Danny hates that he’s nerdy enough to know about pinhole photography, and I hate that he’s never taken a pinhole photo.
How did you decide how many images to use for the zine? Did you have some tough decisions on which to leave out?
I first determined how many pages I’d have, and then picked the pictures.
My primary goal was to have at least one image from every ballpark I’d shot (including my hometown’s minor league park). After that, it was a matter of picking extra images that I felt best captured what it’s like to attend a baseball game.
Honest truth is, I don’t follow baseball, I don’t support any teams, and I really hate watching it on TV, but I adore watching baseball live because of the people, the atmosphere, the history, the smells, and the noise.
I wanted people who may never have been to a ball game before to feel those things, too. I think I succeeded in some ways, but I really want to do so much more.
Is there anything you wished you did differently with the zine or would do differently next time? And aside from the obvious just do it, what advice would you give to anyone else looking to put a zine together from their work?
I don’t regret anything about the zine, including deciding to keep the edition limited to just 50 despite being asked by several folks to print some more. I still look at Ballpark and love it from cover to cover. My only regret is that it feels half done since it’s only half the major parks.
I suggest deciding on a theme for anyone interested in creating their own zine. It doesn’t have to be obvious (ballparks felt obvious), but it should exist. Once the theme is decided, then it makes it much easier to pick images.
Finally, take an honest look at the images you plan to put together and make sure they’ll be meaningful to people outside your circle of friends and peers. I’ve seen too many zines with technically well done images that the average viewer won’t appreciate.
Looking outward and forward
Do you have any favourite photo zines or books from other people that you’ve bought and want to give a shout out to? Or even just people who publish their work online that you think deserve a mention and people to check out their stuff?
Yikes, calling me out? There are so many folks I admire and aspire to be half as good as, and I won’t be able to name most of them … these are folks I’ve interacted with (and adored) for years.
Alex Yates: https://www.alexyates-photography.com/
Moni Smith: http://www.monismithphoto.com/
Jeff McConnell: https://instagram.com/jeffmcconnell_photo
There are tons more and I’ll regret not naming them all …
Have you made any other zines aside from Ballpark? Or anything else physical with your photography?
Ballpark is my first zine. I hope to make more in the future. I’ve had a few shows, but honestly find the whole process of printing and displaying work soul-sucking.
I’m starting to think about taking this all more seriously again. I quit shooting much several years ago, killed my Twitter, stopped blogging. I only really began again with the pandemic and am still finding my feet.
I hope to begin a website this summer, and may offer physical prints through there, but I’m still hesitant.
What are your future hopes and plans for your photography? Any more zine ideas in the pipeline, or any other projects, books, exhibitions or anything?
About six years ago I completed a project called Next Best Thing Pinhole. It began as a dream to travel the world shooting pinholes. I enlisted the help of about 40 photographers. They each dedicated themselves to shoot two pinholes (one focused on landscape, the other on culture) per quarter for a year.
The project ended up with more than 200 amazing pinhole photos shot on every continent (including Antarctica). I’d really like to turn the project into a book, but am not sure how I’d do that, or how I’d pay for it.
You asked earlier of some folks I respect…I respect every single one of the photographers who took part in this project, and they’re all listed on the site.
Finally – and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions – is there any message you want to leave people with? Anything at all, be it related to what we’ve been talking about here or otherwise?
I’ve really been thinking about photography and how it fits into my life. Before I quit, I was very focused on gaining Twitter followers and likes and marketing and none of it felt enjoyable.
I dumped my Twitter account (and others) and stopped shooting because I wasn’t sure why I was even shooting…I’m certainly never going to make money out of it and likes are pretty empty.
Quitting for a while was probably a good thing, but coming back into it is more difficult than I expected. I have an entirely different mindset about what I’m shooting and why, but I’m still not certain if I want to do anything with it beyond shooting pinholes for the pleasure of shooting pinholes.
Also, I want to thank you for asking me questions. It’s really helped me think hard about things I enjoy deeply.
Ballpark zine review
Thank you Herschel for taking the time to answer those questions.
I have to say I’ve learned a lot from all that, which is great. Perhaps the thing that surprised me most was that a pinhole camera can be f/235! As someone who shoots mainly at f/8 or f/11, that was an eye-opening number to read.
As for the zine, I’ve thought it was a terrific piece of work ever since I received it. The way it covers one specific subject matter – ballparks – keeps the concept tight, and shooting it all with a pinhole camera makes it stand out from 99% of other photo zines and books too.
The photographs are mainly wide shots of the ballparks with the huge centrefold Yankee Stadium panorama a favourite of mine, but the occasional shots of things in and around the locations add even more to the feel of it.
It’s perhaps interesting to note too that the two images Herschel pointed out as his favourites were of this type, rather than any of the wide stadium shots that make up the bulk of the zine.
I also like the motion blur that a lot of the shots have as a result of the long exposure times. It’s just another aspect that adds to that feeling of being there that Herschel said he wanted to evoke.
I’ll wrap this up with some more general thoughts on creating something from your photography – be that what you’re shooting today, in the future, or even what you’ve shot sometime in the past.
The Ballpark zine was published in 2020 but features photographs from as far back as 2012, which I think is important to consider. You may not have anything in mind for what you’re currently shooting, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep doing it.
At some point you’re going to have enough good shots in a tight enough theme that you’ll be able to make something from them – be that a zine, a book, an exhibition, or anything else you can think of.
And even if you don’t think that’s something you want to do right now, maybe in the future, when inspiration strikes, you will. So just keep going.
I hope Herschel can fulfil his goal of visiting and shooting every ballpark in the US, and I will certainly be buying the book that comes about from that achievement. I hope he can find a way to get the book made from the Next Best Thing Pinhole project too.
That reminds me of my own project – the leesixtyfive – that I completed with the plan to make a book from that still hasn’t happened. But I will. One day. I promise.
And finally, I must say that while I was aware of pinhole photography before, I had never looked into how to do it or considered giving it a go. But now I think, at some point, I’ll want to.
So thank you, Herschel. For making the Ballpark zine, for taking the time to answer these questions, and for making me think I might soon need yet another new camera. 🙂
p.s… Want to have your zine or book featured here too?
If you’ve made a zine or book or any other kind of publication from your photography and would like to have it featured on a Review and Interview post just like this one, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.
To get the ball rolling, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with some basic information about yourself and what it is you’ve put together.
I will need you to send a copy of your creation over for me to check out in the flesh and take photos of for the post, so please be aware of that if you do decide to get involved.