Large Scale Camera Obscuras


While rolling the dice on Wikipedia I came across a delightful article on the Camera Obscura in San Francisco, overlooking Ocean Beach. It’s on the US National Register of Historic Places. This lead me to wonder what other famed large-scale Camera Obscuras, past and present, there were out there…

There’s the Camera Obscura by the Cliff House in San Francisco of course. Built in 1946, it’s over 50-years-old and is deemed historically significant by the government. The famous Cliff House that stands below the camera obscura once had its own camera obscura on the fourth floor. This was in 1896 however, in an earlier Victorian structure that has since burnt down and been rebuilt.

It’s debated whether or not Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer of the Dutch Golden Age used a camera obscura. Historians theorize that the “precise positioning” and perspective and light effects found in Vermeers’ works are the result of the artist’s use of a camera obscura. The only evidence for the artist’s interest in optics, besides the above deductions by experts, is Vermeer’s painting Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman, in which an “accurately observed mirror reflection” is observed. University College London professor Philip Steadman believes Vermeer used a camera obscura to project images to the back wall of his room. He backs this claim with the fact Vermeer’s canvasses are the same size as these projected images, as simulated with several of Vermeer’s paintings.

The camera obscura at Foredown Tower in Portslade, England, is one of the last two operational camera obscuras in Southeast England. The structure itself was originally a water tower for a sanatorium for patients with infectious diseases. The camera obscura that is in operation today was only installed in the early ’90s.

Fancy building your own large-scale camera obscura? Check out our Tipster A Room with A Special View, and be sure to share your results!

Every Artist needs his or her favorite optical tool. So for your own portable camera obscuras have a peep at our Pinhole Cameras page here!

Information for this article was taken from BBC History and Wikipedia.

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written by soundfoodaround on 2013-01-23 #lifestyle #history #pinhole #san-francisco #england #famous #painter #camera-obscura #vermeer #large-scale

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