2015 year's roundup

Festive hilarity
(Slightly late now) Festive Greetings from Jenny and Pete

Happy New Year!
Firstly we’d like to say a big Thank You to all of those who have supported us this year, from being part of the Kickstarter campaign in late 2014 which allowed us to actually build the new camera in 2015, to those of you who visited us at events, took an interest, who spread the word, hired us for an event, applied to our artist callout or attended a workshop (and the rest). And also to Arts Council England for funding our next phase!

We hope you all had a good festive break. Here’s to 2016 being just as exciting.

2015 in summary:

January – March

We started the year with moving into BOM after successfully raising enough money through our Kicktstarter campaign to build a new camera. Tim at Pinhole Solutions then kindly donated the lens housing to us and we started talking to Matt Moore about building the wooden structure of the camera. In March we held a workshop for Flatpack and had a window installation of mini camera obscuras at Home Deli.


In late April we received the finished wooden sections from Carpenter Matt. In May we posted a callout to artists to get involved with the camera obscura and were delighted with the response. In June we took the camera out to Digbeth First Friday and setup by the canal. This was a test run as it wasn’t quite finished, but great to get out in public again.

flatpack workshop thurs 1020150605_181447


Outings outings outings.

July 4th: CoCoMad

July 3-12th: Moseley Festival. Installation of two miniature camera obscuras in the garden at Maison Mayci for the duration of the festival.

July 18th: Jewellery Quarter Festival.

Aug 18th & 19th: Kirkby workshops

Aug 29th: Moseley Bog with Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife Trust

September 1st: Stirchley Community Market


October 10th: Winterbourne House and Gardens

October 17th: Highbury Harvest

In October we made our first official school visit, to Lyndon in Solihull, and it was ace. Speaking of ace, we also received confirmation of Arts Council funding in October, supporting a 6 month R&D process over the winter months with our 5 chosen artists.


So what does 2016 hold?

  • Workshops and other collaborations with Winterbourne House and Gardens
  • The artistic outcomes of the artist R&D with our famous five.
  • Workshops and an exhibition of the artists’ process at Bom
  • Workshop and involvement with Warwick Arts Centre
  • Capture Birmingham


See you next year!

Jenny and Pete


Highbury Harvest: last official outing this year

Last weekend, Oct 17th we went to Highbury Harvest at Highbury Park, Kings Heath. As it turns out, this was the last Camera Obscura public outing this year. The event had a lovely community atmosphere and we were situated right by the main path where footfall was good, as people were moving towards the 'main event'.


We also tried something a bit different, we had the mini camera obscuras with us anyway as they were still in the car from our school visit, so we decided to hang them in the trees nearby. This worked out as a great way to demonstrate the way that the camera obscura works in a simpler way on a smaller scale, and away from the crowd.


It was a bit gloomy, although dry, at first, but for a few hours mid afternoon we had some glorious autumnal blue sunshine.




Thanks to the organisers of this event for inviting us along after seeing us in the Jewellery Quarter!

This is the last public outing for the Camera Obscura this year, so if you know of any event happening next year which we should attend, then please get in touch!


School Visit to Lyndon School Solihull

Last Wednesday we visited Lyndon School in Solihull to show their students the Camera Obscura.

This was the result of a conversation we had over the summer at CoCoMad, with Mr Spurr, a teacher at the school who took a shine to the device when he saw it at the family festival. Although we've had a lot of different conversations about going into schools, this was the first that actually came to fruition..

We ended up showing the device to several different classes: Year 7 Science, Year 7 History, Year 9 Art & Design and GCSE Photography. We gave a short talk about the project and camera obscuras, and then let the students see for themselves, whilst their classmates waved through the camera.

A fantastic day @lyndonschool with @BhamObscura exploring #photography origins & concepts #light #cameras #images A photo posted by Mr Spurr @LyndonSwitch (@lyndonswitch) on

It was really interesting seeing the different reactions from a ranges of students and hearing the questions that they came up with for us.

We had some great feedback from the staff, and one of the students even said 'This is actually good'  so we count that as a success!

The schools offer is one of many things we are hoping to develop as part of the Arts Council Funding we had confirmation of last week so this will hopefully be the first of many.


Jewellery Quarter Festival Outing

The Bham Obscura outing to the first Jewellery Quarter Festival was the first time I (Jenny) had done this without Pete. Last year, Pete took the camera to Warwick Bar Summer Fete without me, as I was on holiday, but other than that we have always taken the camera out together.


This was a great exercise as to how I would manage without him. We do try and work together as collaboratively as we can, and try not to be too prescriptive with our roles. Having said that, when it comes to lugging around large pieces of wood, much easier when Pete’s there!

The first challenge was actually transporting the kit, which Dan Burwood helped out with, with his large van. The second challenge was recruiting somebody to help out on the day, as a second body. Luckily Kerry Leslie, my good chum and sometimes colleague, eagerly said yes when I asked her a few weeks ago! Sorted.


Then came the day, we loaded up the van at Bom at early am and headed over cheerfully to the Jewellery Quarter Festival site. It was then, when unloading the van I realised I’d forgotten our brand new, shiny silver curtain: shucks. Rang Kerry and she brought it on her way into town thankfully, but in the meantime I used a tarp we always take out in case of showers! The corner I chose to set up on was extremely windy so there were moments when the sides of the camera were acting as sails in the wind. With a *little* help just lifting the heavier pieces onto the top of the structure, we were BUILT.



The festival had a lovely atmosphere and was well organised by the JQ Bid team. There was lots going on and a good crowd came through around lunchtime for several hours. We had some interesting conversations and also saw some familiar faces. We even had some coppers have a look, as well as the festival security. It wasn't as busy as CoCoMad as it was a very different event, but really glad we were invited along.



The new camera's debut: CoCoMad

Moseley Festival / CoCoMad

On the morning before CoCoMad, we installed two small camera obscuras in the garden of Maison Mayci on Moseley High St. This was quite a surreal experience, at pre-9am on a Saturday morning (Pete nor me are morning people) we asked the café staff it was alright to go through to the garden, and we just went and hung two mini cameras up! It was a beautiful morning and a very peaceful spot.


Then off we popped round the corner to CoCoMad.

CoCoMad was our first official outing with the newly built camera, shiny curtain and all! It is definitely a different setup process to that of the old camera. With this one, as it doesn’t have wheels, you really have to think about how you position the camera, in order to optimize the view, how visible it is to passing foot fall, and also so it’s safe (ie not on a steep hill so it slides off its tables base).


We had a HUGE number of visitors. We took 100 flyers with us and gave them all out, so we estimate 300 + people came to visit the camera. Friends and families all came along and peered in. Kiddies came and looked, then went and brought their friends back.


We had some fab conversations with people from all sorts of backgrounds, who gave us some interesting ideas, let us know about other cameras they had seen, gave us some tips on how we could improve it, advised us where to take it..etc..



We stayed for a good long day and left along with all the slightly sun worn visitors. A good day was had, thanks CoCoMad.

Also, big thanks to Fi for the photos of us doing our thing!


First stage of the new build revealed/ Flatpack Festival Fun!

Last week we visited Matt Moore, who is building our new Portable Camera Obscura, at his workshop. He revealed to us the first glimpse of the new Portable Camera Obscura build which you can see below. So far he has build the lid and base pieces which will form the core structure which will contain the projected image,  the lens housing will sit on top of, and will be supported by the wheels. The new structure will be far more modular than the first build, the core structure will be simply detachable from the wheels and lens mechanism, so we can swap and change the pieces.

This will allow us to be far more flexible about how we show the camera obsucara. We could wheel it to a venue and then just sit the core box somewhere or make it into part of a larger installation. It also means that we could mount it onto different wheels or bases. There are many possibilities!

As you can see below, Matt has started with the top and bottom trays, which the side panels will then attach to, to form the core cube structure. Aren't they beautiful?

Here's Pete looking pleased.

IMG_1325 This is only the first part of the exciting new build, next up will be forming the side panels, fixing the lens housing onto the top (and the new lens once it has been made for us!) and then building the base and wheels which will make it portable.

The overall structure will be far stronger and more hard wearing. Once we have the new lens installed it will also be a far clearer image, and with the mechanised mirror, will be able to easily turn the mirror, allowing the viewer to control the view they look at.



Flatpack Film Festival 2015

Flatpack Film Festival runs 19-29 March and we are chuffed to be a part of it this year, with an installation in Home Deli Cafe, as well as running two workshops alongside the installation. This is part of the first part of the festival called Film Bug which takes place in Colmore Business District 20-21 March. The festival then moves through the City towards Digbeth for the second weekend.

Our installation will comprise of a series of miniature camera obscuras, hanging in the window of the cafe. They will be there to see all day Friday 20th and Saturday 21st March.
Friday 7.30am – 7.00pm
Saturday 10.30am – 5.00pm

We are also running two free, drop-in workshops where you can make your own handheld cardboard camera obscura:
Friday 3-4pm
Saturday 3.30-4.30pm



Report: Fun Palaces Weekend

A few weekends ago on 4th and 5th of October, we were at Fun Palaces (I say ‘we’, Pete was honeymooning and then teaching, so my brother came up to help me out). It turned out to be a particularly interesting weekend, mainly due to the wide range of individuals whom we introduced to the Camera Obscura.

For those of you who don’t know, Fun Palaces is an National Arts Council initiative new this year, but based on an old idea. You can find out more about it on their website.

On Saturday morning, we started off at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. It was a difficult location at first, as it was the first time we had been at an indoor event, and on a dull, rainy morning the light was not ideal. However, as the sun came out, the room brightened a lot and we began to get a clear image.

We had some intriguing comments, especially from some younger children, one saying that they could 'see a house' – referring to the selection of windows, another said 'I can see the eyes' which didn't make any sense until we looked into the box again. Do you see them? Can you also spot the 'ghost' window?


The day also involved a series of visits from some Buddhist monks, as there was a series of Buddhist celebrations in relation to 150 years since the Buddha statue was offered to the museum. We also had a fantastic encounter with a visually impaired lady, who patiently waited for the image emerge, and as the sun came out brightly, we could hear her explain from inside, what she could see. Her guide dog seemed curious/concerned about what was going on!


IMG_9327 IMG_9332

On Sunday, we moved to outside The Rep, by wheeling it through the Paradise Forum. This was a far quieter day, as we were in a rather large, open space. Although there were far fewer people, we got an equally wide cross section of people. With it being quieter, we did get to play around with the camera, adjusting the focus and trying different distances from buildings.



A big thank you to Lousie Alden and Kenny Webster, especially for helping us manoeuvre  the camera through the museum and carry it down several flights of stairs; to Katerina Pushkin and Jenny Smith for inviting us to The Rep's Fun Palaces and for providing us with free tea and coffee, and of course our temporary glamorous assistant Tom:

IMG_9348p.s. apologies for the delay in posting, it had been sat in drafts for a couple of weeks!