Art & Design

June 28, 2017

Jack Butler Pinhole Camera Project


JACK BUTLER Pinhole Camera

Jack Butler started capturing the Hot Rod and Kustom Culture with a back to basics Pinhole Camera in 2003. Unique photo-captures

The first time I found out about Jack Butler’s pinhole photos was when I was researching the Wally Welch 1950 Mercury for an magazine article many years ago. I stumbled onto an beautiful “fish-eye” image of the Wally Welch Mercury with the then owner Joe Eddie posing next to it (the openings photo of this article). Fascinated by the images I did some more online searching and found out the photo was taken by Jack Butler of Gig Harbor, Washington. And that the photo was part of a complete series of photos (Hot Rod Kulture/Culture Project) he had taken with a so called “Pinhole Camera”. very low tech camera with no actual lens.

What is a pinhole camera?
A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens but with a tiny aperture, a pinhole – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through the aperture and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box, which is known as the camera obscura effect. (From Wikipedia) A good explanation how the pinhole camera works can be found here.

Jack has been enjoying Hot Rods and Custom Cars since he was a kid, and in the 1990’s he was drawn back into the scene after he visited a Hot Rod show. He bought himself a ’32 Ford 5-window coupe and rebuilt it to his ultimate Hot Rod over a period of years. Around 2003 he seriously started to combine his passion for Art and the Hot Rod & Kustom Culture scene when he used his Pinhole Camera to capture the Cars and the people in the scene. He started working with instant Polaroid material so that the people could see the result of his work right there at the spot. They were amazed with the result, how such a low tech camera, without lens, F-stop or mechanical shutter could result in such a good looking and characteristic picture.

In 2003 he received a C.O.L.A. grant, which allowed him to explore his project more and resulted in an exhibition of the work at the Barnsdall Municipal Art Gallery in 2004. The entire show was about the Hot Rod culture, and he later produced his own book, Hot Rod Kulture featuring his Pinhole Camera Hot Rod & Kustom Culture images.

Initially all the images for this project were shot with his Leonardo Pinhole Camera on Polaroid 4×5 Film. All images copyright of Jack Butler. Later Jack also did a few images in color, using the same camera. Jack Butler’s book is still available on BLURB.

The Pinhole Camera that Jack used to shoot all these images with (4×5 Polaroid Type72 B/W). The camera is made by Leonardo’s in New Mexico.


Self portrait with the pinhole camera, Jack Butler with his ’32 Ford 5-window.


Jon fisher 1936 Ford.


Joe Eddy, Wally Welch 1950 Mercury.


Keith Weesner Shoebox   –   Keith Weesner Model A.


Johnnie Escobar 1940 Chrysler Coupe.


Verne Hammond & Michelle.


Jack Butler photographing Verne Hammond & Michelle (photo by Aaron Kahan).


Robert Williams ’32 Ford   –   Suzanne Williams ’34 sedan.


Verne Hammond’s ’34 Ford    –    Choppers Car Club.


George Barris 2003   –   Denise ’53 Ford.


Fabian Valdez Chevy    –    ’56 Ford Hop Up.


Mike Collin’s Buick   –   Mark Morton ’54 Merc


Frank Berone’s Ford   –   Custom “Olds” Pomona.


Frank Berone   –    Jimmy McCord.


Tom Branch ’32 roadster   –   Jimmy McCord


“Beatniks” Paso Robles   –   Gypsy & Andrea – BOTC


’31 Ford Stewart Crawford   –   ’26 “T” Don White


“Bad News” T


“Bad News” T in the making.


Jack Carroll Coupe


Jack Carroll coupe   –   “Pumpers” coupe


Fabian’s Chevy   –   “Bad Bob’s” Merc


Verne Hammond, Aaron Kahan and Jack Butler during an exhibition at Frumkin Gallery.


Morty and Jack   –   Pat Ganahl and Jack




Jack Butler’s Hot Rod Kulture Culture book.


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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)



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