Artists at the Curfew Tower, Cushendall

pinhole tower
This is the Cushendall Tower as you've never seen it before!

Since 1999, the Tower has been operating as a residency for artists - managed by a trust named after the slogan on the American dollar bill, the In You We Trust. The owner of the Tower, Bill Drummond, who bought it from Hearth Revolving Fund in 1993, allows artists to stay in the Tower (usually for two week periods) on condition that they derive part of their inspiration from the Tower or the area around Cushendall, and leave a part of their work behind them to build up a permanent collection at the Tower.

This image of the Tower was created in May 2000 by Peter Richards, a Belfast-based artist who makes photographs using the technique of the 19th century camera obscura or pinhole camera. Your grandfather or great-grandfather may have made a camera out of a shoe-box with a lens that was literally a pinhole at one end through which light reached a light-sensitive negative at the other. Peter has the advantage of colour photography, and works on a large scale exposing the image directly onto colour paper (in this case about four feet long) without an intervening negative. As a result the colours are inverted, and the red sky you see in the photograph was actually azure blue. Like all good Victorian photographs, there are no people walking around the busy village in this picture - and for the same reason, that the exposure took "one cigarette" or about ten minutes, to make, during which the fleeting images of cars and people made no impression.

Even with corrected colours, the Tower may look strange here if you know it well. Partly that is due to the fish-eye lens effect of the pinhole, but it is also caused by another of its properties, the lateral inversion of the image, so that the left hand side of the picture is on the right in real-life. To remind yourself how the Tower looks like in reality, click here.

PS. In case you're wondering how Peter exposed such a large sheet of paper through a shoe-box, his "camera" in this case was actually a wheelie-bin!

Many other artists have produced images of the Tower in the course of their stay - here are a few more:

Eddie Rafferty
Eddie Rafferty
John Hirst
John Hirst
Scarf 2008
Scarf by Jane Twigg and Astrid Bin

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