“The camera obscura itself is the idea of working with a very ancient system to feel as if I’m drinking from the same fountain a lot of other folks have. It’s something true and ancient, and still, to this day, surprising.”
Friday night I had the pleasure of hearing Abelardo Morell speak about his work and works in process as part of the Photo Alliance lecture series. Morell, a Cuban immigrant moved to the US in 1974 at the age of 14 and is currently a Professor of Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art. Unlike many artists of our time, Morell spoke without putting on airs about his artistic practice, process and experiences as a Latin American artist.
My favorite works of Morell’s, are the ones he is best known for – his series of captured camera obscura installations. Morell has travelled the world converting full sized rooms into camera obscura devices. The principle of a camera obscura is that a box (or room) with a hole on one side may pass light through it acting like a natural projection system. The image, usually projected upside down, is accurate in perspective and can be flipped right side up with the use of mirrors or prisms. While seemingly simple, the process is laborious and the location scouting can require extensive cooperation by various officials. After building these very site specific devices, Morell fixates the image to black and white or color film using a large format view camera with exposures lasting as long as four hours.
The result is obviously stunning. The camera obscura, sharp and accurate, is an artistic and scientific fascination. The added projection of the image onto it’s mirrored miniature reproduced counterpart (seen above) is an interesting juxtaposition of scale and composition. To see more work and an interview with the artist visit this Lens Culture link.