Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

CAMERA OBSCURA + Pinhole Event @ Foto Frenzy: A Report

with 4 comments

Unidentified Flying Hubcap - Barkly Tablelands

Since the year 2000 we have been making large-scale room camera obscuras. These have been made as part of visual research for our Place Projects. Usually we document the process and the images form a narrative for inclusion in photobooks and exhibitions. In 2009 we launched WINDOW/s, a limited edition photobook of 9 copies, along with an exhibition of the 9 camera obscura images @ the Queensland Centre for Photography.  

SEE the book as an Adobe Flash Pageflip HERE

In our Place Project work we have found that the camera obscura connects us directly with the place or site that we are working in. We have found that anyone witnessing the place-specific camera obscura responds enthusiastically this natural phenomenon. Time spent inside the camera obscura evokes a sharing of different perceptions: of the visual, of memory and of experiences in the lives of each visitor. So we decided that we should create a camera obscura as part of our Foto Frenzy artist in residence.

As a result of a conversation with a past QCA student of Doug’s from the 1980s, photographer John Pryke, through some great research on the internet, found that not far down the road was the site of an historical camera obscura on Whites Hill.


The Whites Hill Camera Obscura c1924 from the 'Lost Brisbane' Project site

The Whites Hill Camera Obscura c1924 from the ‘Lost Brisbane’ Project site


The view from the front entry of Foto Frenzy was selected as its outlook is of the defining feature of this place – the major intersection of Bennetts and Old Cleveland Roads Coorparoo. A plan was created, the room blacked out with thick black agricultural plastic, a light admitting hole of around 12 mm was made and fitted in the door of the building, and screens arranged inside onto which the image could be projected.

FF-Camera Obscura-Plan-new


Saturday the 20th of April was a bright sunny day with occasional clouds and the 40 or so visitors witnessed the wonders of this simple device. Many brought cameras with them to make images, some brought family members including children – all, as we hoped, were taken by the visual experience of being ‘IN’ a camera, one which did not even require a lens.

As artists in residence working with the  Foto Frenzy / Brisbane Camera Hire Team, we were around some amazing technology and people with special knowledge. Director Darren Jew produced his Canon EOS 1D and a high speed 12mm lens for the cover image of this post. If you’ve not been in a ‘lensless’ camera obscura you will not be aware of how dark the images is – usually it takes several minutes for your eyes to adjust to see what is going on, it is that dark. There are perhaps only a few movies of camera obscura images that have ever been made as it requires specialized cameras and equipment. Darren Jew offered to wind up the ISO of his latest camera and at 40,000 ISO we were able to create a movie of the impromptu performance of our antics outside the building as – ‘Vicky and Doug do a Selfie’.

SEE the movie here ….



What fascinated us was the excitement and enthusiasm for the project, much of which was posted on Facebook soon after the event. With the permission of the respondents we have posted some of their images and words in the screen grabs that follow …


Megan Rizzo and family visit and photograph the camera obscura

Megan Rizzo and family visit and photograph the camera obscura

Sara Pearcy comments on her experience with Nicholas in the camera obscura

Sara Pearcy comments on her experience with son Nicholas in the camera obscura

Steven Underhayes' terriffic camera obscura image

Steven Underhayes’ terrific camera obscura image

John Pryke does a 'Selfie' in the camera obscura

John Pryke does a ‘Selfie’ in the camera obscura

SEE more of John’s photographs on his blog: <http://johnprykephoto.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/camera-obscura.html>..

.Additionally the event included a presentation of some of our pinhole cameras, pinhole making techniques, and discussions about how to make pinhole images with SLR and DSLR cameras. Most importantly we encouraged participants to make and enter photos made on April 28 in the 2013 World Pinhole Photography Day event.


Thank you to the participants, the Foto Frenzy / Brisbane Camera Hire team, in particular Darren Jew and Jacob Schneider, for helping to make this a successful event


All  photographs and texts © of the authors 2013.

Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


4 Responses

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  1. A great piece of retro photography dragged into the 21st Century. Well done to the Cooper+Spowart Team and the Foto Frenzy support – a great place to do exciting things!

    Ian Poole

    April 23, 2013 at 4:27 am

  2. This would have been a wonderful demonstration Dr x 2. You are both so amazing.

    jan ramsay

    April 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    • G’Day Jan – It was a great event – sorry you were unable to make it but, the images from those who were there certainly fills a gap and shares the experience.

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