Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Camera Obscura

The camera obscura (Lat. dark chamber), the basic principles of which have been known since antiquity, is essentially just a box (which may be room sized: see discussion below) with a small hole on one side. Light passes through the hole and forms an image on the opposite wall (the sharpness of which depends on the size of the hole, and with very small holes leading to problems stemming from diffraction; as the hole becomes smaller, light sensitivity also naturally decreases).

The camera obscura has long been a favorite of artists because the artist can use the projected image as the base on which to draw; since the image is in perfect perspective, the realism of the rendered image is thus hightened. Pinhole cameras are camera obscuras with light-sensitive film.

Now we come to the reason for this Blog entry: to highlight the work of a master photographer - Cuban-born Abelardo Morell - who uses a room-size camera obscura to record wall-size images of Manhattan, New York, San Francisco, CA, and the cityscape of Havana, Cuba (among many other locations). Interested viewers are encouraged to explore Morell's complete Camera Obscura gallery.

His full (and extensive) on-line gallery of photographs (including some of his early work) can be viewed here. His most recent publications include Camera Obscura, and A Book of Books. See also Abelardo Morell (by Richard B. Woodward).


David said...

I suggest visitors visit Abelardo Morell's website to really appreciate this work. There you will find a wide variety of images, most of which are breathtaking in their beauty.

It still amazes me, as I read in the introduction to his book, that a simple, small hole will allow light to show a perfect image on the back of a camera. Here the camera is a room where the artist takes a picture of this phenomena.

Enjoy the other examples, you'll be glad you did. One last point: When you look at each one, take a second to see the room and its furnishing and then look at the walls to see the outside projected to the walls. I found that makes it easy to absorb the entire image.

David said...

One more item:

I think you, Andy, should give a description of the science behind a pin hole camera. Just how does this thing work? A few illustrations would be nice. Also, you might philosphize on the pin hole and the information content we can get, that is, an entire picture. I think that would make for an interesting, and useful, post.