Barbara Ess, an artist and musician best known for plumbing the limits of perception with a pinhole camera, died on Thursday at her home in Elizaville, N.Y. She was 76.
The cause was cancer, according to Bard College, where she was an associate professor of photography.
In a varied career rooted in the downtown Manhattan art scene of the 1970s and ’80s, Ms. Ess sang and played guitar and bass in Y Pants, the Static and other “No Wave” bands — hard-charging rejoinders to the perceived commercialism of punk — and published an influential mixed-media zine.
But it was in 1983 that she found her muse when she happened upon an article about pinhole cameras in The New York Times. Admitting light directly through a tiny aperture with no focus mechanism, a pinhole camera was easy for Ms. Ess to build at home. Without the distortion of a lens,