R&D artists decided upon


Last week Jenny and I worked through the many and varied submissions for the open call and whittled them down to five. We were aiming for four, but that was just a number picked out the air and these felt like a good set, so five it is.

Here they are with a very brief summary of their idea.

Dolly Kershaw – augmenting the camera with mechanical devices so it can be controlled by the wind.

Gen Doy – a solo performance inside the camera using spoken word and song.

Matthew Gabrielli – a new play based on the history of the camera to be performed with / in it.

Michael Lightborne – an interactive installation on a traffic island.

Sophie Bullock – a video installation exploring the visual qualities of the camera.

Our aim is that, by letting these people use their camera to create new work, we can learn new things about the camera obscura as an artistic tool, the development of which pretty much stopped in the 19th century when the camera was co-opted by photography. We will therefore be documenting this entire process and sharing it with you all, and hope that our findings will inform how we use the camera in 2016 and onwards.

In order to do this properly, though, we need to obtain funding and an application to the Arts Council's Grants For The Arts fund is in progress. If this is successful work will start in October!

(Pic at top – Dolly Kershaw's wind-powered cine-camera.)


Open Call – one week to go

Our Open Call closes on Monday 6th July and we've had a number of good ideas through. It's not too late though, and now we've had a chance to discuss it and think more about why we're doing this, a recap might be useful.

The main thing to remember is we're not looking for perfectly realised ideas. We have to satisfy three needs – what you want to do, what we want to do and, most importantly, what the Arts Council are prepared to fund. As such we'll be taking the successful proposals and working them into the proposal, not using them as they come. This is just the start of the process.

Alongside this you're not limited to one idea. The camera can be quite inspirational so send us all you have. Sometimes the most simple, off-hand idea is the best.

Another important thing to remember is how this will help you develop your work. R&D is an investment, and that should apply to you too.

Don't worry about the technical aspects, or your lack of technical skills. Being based at BOM we have no problem making stuff work. What we need are the ideas to direct the tech, which is where you come in.

Finally, the Arts Council funded thing isn't the only stuff we want to do art-wise. Because the camera is crowdfunded we see ourselves more as protective custodians than owners, and as such we actively want people to do cool things with it. If your idea isn't suitable for the open call, it's not because it's necessarily a bad idea. It could be something we'd want to explore separately, so get it in.

So far we've had ideas from a singer, a gypsy jazz band, two playwrights, an experimental photographer, a video artist interested in Sigmund Freud's use of the camera obscura, and someone who wants to fill the camera with programmable LEDs and turn it into a projector, with many more promised as the deadline approaches.

If we had to sum it up, keep it simple!

The camera will be at Many & Varied at The Bond in Digbeth on Friday 3rd July from all afternoon and into the evening if you'd like to have a look at it. And then at Cotteridge Park on Saturday.

The full Open Call text is here. Send your ideas to and we'll make out decision within a couple of weeks.


Call Out for Artists

Open Call for R&D proposals using the new Birmingham Camera Obscura

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Birmingham Camera Obscura is an ongoing project by Jenny Duffin and Pete Ashton to explore new ways to use the camera obscura. The camera obscura is a device that predates modern photography by over 1000 years.

We are putting together a funding proposal to commission new work made using the new Birmingham Camera Obscura which will be touring the region from July 2015.

The camera is a 1x2x1 metre wooden box with a lens and mirror which projects a sharp image from outside onto a white screen. It flat-packs down and can be installed anywhere in minutes.

We want artists / technologists to help explore this tool in the development of new work. While we welcome photographers we particularly want to encourage people who do not usually work with "traditional" photography. Musicians, illustrators, dancers, etc.

We anticipate a budget of £1000 per work, to cover fees, and costs. The camera is based at Birmingham Open Media (BOM) where the R&D will take place.

Proposals should be sent to and can be any length you like but please address the following:

  • How the work will aid your personal artistic / technical development.
  • How the public might experience your work.

Remember no funding exists at this stage so please just send an outline of your intentions and some links to previous work.

The deadline is July 6th (but we're not going to look at them before Thursday so if you missed the deadline get in now!). We will chose 4 proposals and, with your help, work them into an application which will be submitted during July. Subject to approval, the R&D will take place between October to March and will help inform our program for 2016.

The camera will be undergoing final testing through June at Birmingham Open Media (BOM). If you'd like to see it, Pete can arrange a visit. For more information see

Pete Ashton
Jenny Duffin