A Walk-In Camera Obscura Turns Brooklyn Upside Down

Vanderbilt Republic's room-sized installation keeps the historic legacy of the camera obscura alive in Gowanus.

by Alyssa Buffenstein
Feb 18 2016, 5:45pm

A view of the camera obscura’s projections. Images courtesy the artist

The camera obscura has been around since antiquity, and has been used throughout history by the likes of Aristotle, da Vinci, Vermeer, and others for both experimenting and artmaking. Now, with a project called A Photographic Monument, two artists in Brooklyn have turned an entire loft into a camera obscura, inside which visitors can experience, upside down, all the wondrous sights one can see from Gowanus.

George del Barrio and Ashton Worthington collaborated on the 3,000-square-foot “epistemic machine,” which is housed inside the Gowanus loft of creative agency Vanderbilt Republic (the former site of a rainbow light bridge). Until March 2, visitors can make online reservations to enter the camera obscura, and are warned they “must be prepared to spend 45 minutes in deepest darkness.”

A camera obscura is made of box—or in this case, a room—with a hole through which light from outside shines, hits an internal surface, and reflects onto another surface. The image is inverted (unless mirrors are used to flip it).

The Gowanus camera obscura uses light from the sun, but the artists claim that it can produce visible projections even with heavy cloud coverage, from 9 AM to around 430 PM. While the industrial neighborhood might not be the pinnacle of natural beauty, viewing it literally upside down might give visitors a whole new appreciation for the borough.

Click here to learn more about Vanderbilt Republic. 


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