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Camera Obscura Image of the Grand Tetons in Resort Room, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
© Abelardo Morell; courtesy Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York City
The word camera means room, and a camera obscura is a darkened room with a lens set in the wall, or just a tiny hole, through which an inverted image of the world outside can be projected on the interior. Aristotle delineated the principle, and Leonardo da Vinci provided an early working diagram for a camera obscura, the device that Abelardo Morell employs in his photographs.
For this picture, Morell rented a room with a view at a lodge. First he blocked out the view by covering the picture window with black plastic sheeting in which he poked a 3/8-inch hole. This turned the room into a giant pin-hole camera with an upside-down view of the Tetons on the walls. (If unhappy with the composition, he could move the mountains around the room by covering the hole and making another elsewhere.) Finally, he set up his view camera inside the room, opened the shutter, and went out hiking with his son during the eight hours needed for the exposure.
The inspiration for this picture was the one by Ansel Adams that you see on the wall. By placing an Adams poster and a kitsch figurine of a stag in the room, Morell's shadowy interior literally turns Adams' view of the world topsy-turvy.
[Originally published in West Magazine : April 29, 2007, p.9]