An art class at Victoria's Fintona Girls' School has built a life-size camera obscura
Article originally published by Australian Photography Magazine on 31 May 2021
The Year 11 art class at Fintona Girls’ School in Victoria has taken their study of photography to the next level by creating their very own life-sized camera obscura.
A camera obscura is essentially a blackened room or box with a small hole or lens that projects what is outside of the box onto the internal wall.
The camera obscura situated in the Fintona Girls' School art gallery
For this project the students have used photographic paper as a means of creating a negative.
The structure was built by Fintona’s art technician, Kate Rohde, by using a number of panels that were constructed from dresser pine and black builders plastic.
The plastic sheeting allowed students to easily fit a number of different lenses, like magnifying glasses and traditional pinholes. The camera obscura was also fitted with an Industar 11M 300mm lens to help the students capture crisper images.
Brit Biviano, Fintona’s Art Learning Leader, explained that the project came about as a means of teaching the students the underlying principles of photography. At first the students had to build their own pinhole cameras and the camera obscura was simply an extension of this concept.
Speaking on the project, Brit said, “The instant nature of some digital photographic processes means that sometimes images can be produced without much reflection or personal investment. I want students to be physically involved in the image-making process.”
“Digital photography is underpinned by darkroom/wet photography, so this project has given students a greater understanding and appreciation of digital processes by requiring them to develop an awareness of the mechanics of light and photography."
Brit shared that the project has been a success and the feedback from the students has been very positive.
So far the students have photographed experimental portraits of each other along with a number of still-life images. The end of the project will see the students moving the camera obscura outside to photograph school buildings and other parts of the school grounds.
“The students have been excited by the project and the chance to use the large scale camera. The experience of working inside a giant camera is fairly novel and not something that all students have the opportunity to do."
Students pictured: (left to right) Alyssa Gale, Kristen Goh, Charlotte Dowling, Alice Hu, Mia Biondo
"It is always encouraging to see them excited about the ‘magic’ of science and art. The have also enjoyed the collaborative nature of the project.”