Saturday, April 17, 2010

Muralist's Trick

Sleeping inside a camera: a Camera Obscura projects the outside world onto interior walls

Large-scale paintings were sometimes created using a Camera Obscura, which was an optical aid to help artists trick their mind into seeing the world more objectively as a camera does - even before film cameras were invented.

The photo above is from my room in Mae Salong, Thailand. The patches of light and color on my walls moved lazily along with traffic noises outside, and soon I realized these were no ordinary shadows that flickered onto my wooden walls: they were a genuine camera obscura thanks to a crack in my wooden shutters.

It turns out I was sleeping inside a giant pinhole camera, and these shadows were the scene from the morning market outside, inverted and reflected into my guesthouse room. Light flashed from chrome motorbikes and onto the wall above me. A red lantern swayed outside my window, its tassels grazing the wooden balcony below. On sunny mornings it’s like watching a television on my bedroom walls – but with the same background every day.