Folks, we’ve officially come full circle. The gigantic advancements in technology that have been made since Daguerre first fixed an image, Fox-Talbot invented the reproducible image and Kirsch invented the pixel still has photographers like us grasping for our roots. “The Camera Obscura is Back.”
And like anything in this post-post-modern world, it needs a tacky sales schpiel to sell it (we’ll get to that later.)
Before there were photographs, we painted to make a record of people, places and ideas. Many of these artists would use a camera obscura to aid them in this process as they provided a still frame from which to copy from, trace over or interpret more easily than their own sight. Damn peripheral vision!
David Hockney pointed out that many masterpieces had to have been created using this ‘old camera technology’ much to the horror of many art historians.
Then came along 1800s and something called ‘fixing the image’. Scientists, chemists and hobbyists (there were no photographers back then obviously) started experimenting with different materials that would take the light exposed onto the back of the camera obscura and fix it in place. Niépce was the first to successfully do this in 1827, although modern photography is often attributed to Daguerre and Fox-Talbot over a decade later.
Excited? Well get ready to have your visions of grandeur dashed by an awful ’90s style infomercial that not only teaches you how to suck eggs, but at the same time devalues the premise of the idea it’s created.
From the garish voiceover to the cliché painting scenes all it’s missing is spinning stars with $ signs with a free phone number. BUY NOW AND GET A FREE CHIMPANZEE etc.
And that is just not fair, because the product is actually rather beautiful. Designed by Les Cookson and Ken Higginson, who have already have several backed Kickstarter projects under their belt, built the camera obscura up from scratch.
So is it an artists tool or a photographer’s tool? Who is the camera obscura specifically aimed at? A single
accessory bit of wood answers all that. The SLR camera adapter:
Yes, it’s basically giving your camera a big wooden box shaped lens. This is not a new idea as the concept has already been popularised on Flickr in Through the Viewfinder or TTV groups.
Some example images do leave you wondering why you’d bother pointing the camera into the box rather than the subject itself.
It’s difficult to be objective while echoes of the cheesy sales talk are still reverberating around my head. The product is truly lovely and worthy of your attention. Maybe it’s worthy of the $139 you’ll need to spend to get the complete kit plus camera mount. But passing this off as a revolution and selling it to photographers as a must have tool for their armoury feels like your basic Missy MWAC episode.
All things photography should be celebrated. But when doing so, do it with a bit of class, please.