Traversing Philosophy & Photography: Lean Lui's Pinhole Camera x Washing Machine Experiment


We previously featured Hong Kong artist Lean Lui for her dreamlike images and self-reflections through photography. She recently reached out to Lomography to share her latest experiment which she calls Disorder Sensing. Using light sensitive paper, the 23-year-old artist, now living in London, made a pinhole camera, threw it in a washing machine for high-speed exposure, and created a series of photos marked by uncanny shapes and colors.

Taking pinhole photography and grounding it with the philosophies of I Ching and Taoism, as well as inspiration from abstract art by Western painters, Disorder Sensing served as a way to test out possibilities both technical and personal.

Credits: leanlui

Hi, Lean! You were 19 years old when you were first featured in Lomography Magazine and it’s been a few years since then! Can you tell us what you’ve been up to and what has changed in your approach to photography?

Wow, exactly! It has been four years and I’m still in this community. During these four years, my photography journal has extended to experimental, fine art, personal diary, fashion, celebrity. I’m so blessed that I can try different areas out and meet different amazing people.

I often wander between “symbolization” and “abstraction”, as I have always used Chinese and Western creative methods. Although I often use the I Ching and Taoism as themes, I've never directly used hexagram or yin-yang symbols. Incorporating the contents of I Ching into the creation of artistic techniques, I started from learning Yi and was deeply influenced by Dr. Zeng Shiqiang. I believed that the I Ching could not only be regarded as serious life wisdom, but also something very interesting and playful.

How did you come up with the idea for Disorder Sensing? Was there a eureka moment and what was it like?

I was very angry and depressed at that time and threw things at the wall. There’s shooting art like Niki de Saint Phalle's Tirs (Shots) and splash painting like Jackson Pollock's, and suddenly, I came up with an idea: what if I threw my camera? I made a pinhole camera with light sensitive paper, and threw it at the wall, in a dark environment, with some color light only. Sometimes I pinned one hole, sometimes two or three, or more. Then I developed it in the darkroom with different temperature/time/portion of chemicals. Then, I asked, “what if I put it at a faster speed?”

At the same time, I got a Hexagram from I Ching. I obtained inspiration from the Sui (Following) Hexagram. I made a pinhole camera directly out of photosensitive paper and put it into a washing machine for high-speed exposure to obtain images, integrating ancient wisdom with modern technology.

Credits: leanlui

How did the patterns on the images appear? Did you draw or make marks on the paper?

The marks might've come from folding, because I needed to fold the light sensitive paper into a pinhole camera first, then put them in the washing machine. I didn't draw on the paper, however, this is just my stage one. For the next step, I will try different lightings and more ways to create pictures.

What did you think when you saw the outcome? Do you have a favorite among the images and why that photo?

When I first saw the result, I felt very thankful and surrendered to the universe–it gave me the image I have never seen and imagined. Sometimes we do need the karma with the universe, it’s about trust and surrender. The interest and diversity gained from this is also the direction of my future creation and exploration.

This is the first test I did and my favorite, and I couldn't copy it later even after over 50 tests. I tried both black and white and color light sensitive paper, when I saw the silver material come out like meteors, I was really shocked!

Credits: leanlui

When I tried the color ones, it’s so hard to control the camera design, exposure time and development temperature. So when I saw the results, I was so grateful!

Your photography has always been fueled by your interest in philosophy as well as self-expression. Have you had any recent discoveries, maybe about yourself or the world around you, that’s been the driving force behind your art recently?

It is a really nice question. Yes, I’m always focused on what we can’t see with our eyes, that’s why we need a camera or a picture. Scientifically, human eyes can only see up to a certain wavelength, or some really reflective objects, but I'm always interested in things that can't be found directly with the eyes. There are always lots of ambiguous emotions in our heart, you can’t really name it but you can definitely feel it. That’s my most interesting working area. Seemingly rational but actually very emotional.

Images from Lean's 2020 album, Devil n Angel.

Are you working on other projects right now, or do you have other creative projects you want to pursue?

I’m developing the next step for the Disorder Sensing project. In the first stage I practiced a new way to catch the light, this is still more focused on the skill and technical field since this is a new observation I found. I will think deeper on my theme and motif, and how to present it in a better way.

Thank you very much, @leanlui, for sharing your art and perspectives with us!

To view more of her work you may check her LomoHome, Instagram page and website.

written by sylvann on 2022-08-11 #culture #people #pinhole-photography #pinhole-camera #taoism #light-sensitive-paper #i-ching #lean-lui


  1. mrlostsoul
    mrlostsoul ·

    great ideas and images !

  2. manu2021
    manu2021 ·

    Unbelievable! Really interesting and a deep great job.

  3. leanlui
    leanlui ·

    thank u so so much for sharing my work ❤️

  4. jacekdaniel
    jacekdaniel ·

    witam, fajny artykuł ja lubię również moją stronę:

  5. jacekdaniel
    jacekdaniel · sprawdźcie sami proszę

  6. sylvann
    sylvann ·

    Thank you @mrlostsoul and @manu2021 ! And to @leanlui for her wonderful experiment! <3

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