Camera Obscura V

Wide angle view from inside of the camera obscura during construction. The walls of the camera are made of thick, black plastic hanging off the ceiling forming an almost completely closed off area.

Camera obscura installation. Axa building, Kortrijksesteenweg 43, Gent, Belgium, 28/02/2019 — 03/03/2019

Image of building

When the opportunity came about to use the third floor of the condemned Axa building for a project it wasn’t immediately clear to me what I was going to do there so I spent some feeling the space. As the office building was destined for demolition, there was no more activity inside, almost all of the furnishings were stripped, the power was cut. There remained only an empty space. Very quiet, separated from the busy world outside.

Image of third floor

It felt to me as if the building was waiting for the demolition crew to move in. It had ‘slowed down’. Fallen into a state of quiet solitude after many years of business. It’s probably that felling that persuaded me to build this fifth camera obscura installation. I remembered from the previous installations that if you want to see the image inside the camera you need to slow down. Your eyes need at least a couple of minutes to adjust to the darkness. There’s nothing to see if you are in a hurry.

Image of location inside the building. Floor plan?

The third floor was quite large which allowed me to build a camera spacious enough for several people to sit in at once. This way I hope they could share the experience and amazement of seeing the image form out of darkness. I wanted to invite viewers to somehow participate in the creation of the image.

By choosing to use a low-tech tool instead of a digital camera, I like to make a statement about the value of simplicity and the impact of technology on our lives. This adds another layer of meaning to the installation and can spark discussions about the role of technology. It’s important to me that the camera obscura was one of the earliest forms of ‘photography’, and its use can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Arabs, probably even to ancient Egypt. By incorporating this ancient technology into my work, I hope to honour to the rich history of photography and draw connections between the past and present.

In all some 150 visitors experienced the installation. Each one spent at least a couple of minutes in the camera. For most of them it was their first experience to be inside a camera obscura. They were truly amazed at the simple way the camera obscura produces an image.

I recorded one image and one time lapse video of the view inside the camera.

Image of the image 🙂

The material needed to build the camera was carefully reused into a final work ‘Camera Obscura V — 2019’.

Image of COV

If you would like to read more about the old Axa building, Gentcement has an interesting short article about the project.