St James School

Setting up the obscura on the school grounds, there were lots of curious students asking questions and peering in the obscura. From inside I could hear people discussing what they thought it could be – a spaceship was by far the most popular guess. Even when I told them what it was, few students believed it really was a giant camera they could climb inside…

I was setting it up for a Photography and art class who were beginning with the history of photography. It was great to be beginning with a sort of ‘prehistory’ of photography, the camera obscura, what is for me, the earliest form of photo-graphy (light-pictures). We started by building a camera obscura you can put on your head from a cardboard box.. the students wandered off to the light filled atrium to get to grips with the immersive experience of having your world turned upside.. and back to front.

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Next it was time to step into my own obscura.. I was able to demonstrate the effects of apertures restricting light and increasing the depth of field, and how that relates to the modern cameras they were using to rephotograph the screen.

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We followed this up talking about how our most ancient ancestors may have used camera obscuras, explored various uses for the obscura and experimented with digital pinhole photography. Next up, we stepped back inside the the camera and worked together to create the portraits you see below – balancing aperture and shutter speed with the obscura and with the digital cameras we were photographing on…

Thanks to all the students and staff for their enthusiasm.

If you’d like me to visit your school, college or group, please get in touch.

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