Sketching Obscura at the Warwick Arts Centre

Yesterday Jenny and I attended the opening of Gerard Byrne’s exhibition at the Mead Gallery within the Warwick Arts Centre. The centrepiece, a new work called Jielemeguvvie guvvie sjisjnjeli – Film inside an image, is quite spectacular and well worth a visit.

Alongside the exhibition is an educational room curated by Jo Gane looking at the history of photography, and we were asked to build a small camera obscura for drawing on. We’d been wanting to make a new camera so gladly took up this modest commission.

Here it is in situ, next to Kerry Leslie‘s diagram (who is also under the cover).

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We used an old cabinet donated by a neighbour and neatly cut a hole in the front and top. The front has a +2 close-up lens (twice as strong as the one in our big camera) which focusses at about 50cm away. The top has a thick piece of frosted plastic which captures the image from behind allowing you to place tracing paper over it and make a drawing. Inside the cabinet is a mirror at 45 degrees.

Like all cameras that are made from scratch, it’s an experiment that we didn’t completely know would work until it was installed in the gallery, but we’re happy with it. Where it fails is with the internal lighting which is only just bright enough, but were it moved outside it would be perfect. The view is also a little low, capturing people’s legs rather than their heads, but that can be fixed by raising the camera up a couple of steps, or people crouching down.

But it works, and everyone is pleased, so we’re pleased. Not bad for a week’s work!

The exhibition is on for three months with our camera in situ throughout. We’ll also be bringing the big camera to Warwick during half term on Tuesday Feb 16th for the afternoon and running build-your-own workshops as part of a week of activities. Hope to see you there!