Camera obscura – a trick of travelling light and an age-old natural optical phenomenon, is the basis of a new exhibition by award-winning photographer Robyn Stacey. Titled Dark Wonder, Stacey has created and then photographed camera obscura illusions and is projecting them in the studios and creative spaces of Australian creatives.
“Like pinhole photography, the camera obscura allows light into a darkened room through a tiny hole, which projects the scene from outside onto an inside surface,” explains Stacey. The artist first encountered camera obscura in Florence at a Da Vinci exhibition, and has been experimenting with the practice since 2013. “Camera obscura allows you to capture the external world in a defined space, but the view in the room is happening in real time and constantly changing.”
The exhibition contains photographs of live visions of the outside world floating across darkened walls of studio spaces. An inverted Harbour Bridge and a sparkling Sydney Harbour bend across the whitewashed walls of Brett and Wendy Whiteley’s library, and the rolling green paddocks of Bundanon are reversed on sandstone at the late Yvonne and Arthur Boyd’s private residence.
“The camera obscura is totally weather dependent and will not work on an overcast or cloudy day. On a bright, sunny day the projection of the external vista into the room only exists for a few hours, depending as it does on the position of the sun in relation to the room,” says Stacey. “You have to respond to the transience of the process, which is quite exciting.”
For Dark Wonder Stacey photographed each scene; an interesting blend of old and modern imaging methods. “For me it is about experimenting with the range of techniques and optical devices that photography has to offer.” As for her next trick with light she says, “I want to keep working with light and the way that vision creates our sense of self, and I am keen to make a series of work using moonlight.”
Dark Wonder is at Stills Gallery until November 5.
There will also be a series of camera obscura events at the Courthouse Hotel at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst on the weekends of October 8–9 and October 15–16.