camera obscura

Camera Obscura

a darkened boxlike device in which images of external objects, received through an aperature, as with a convex lens, are exhibited in theirr natural colors on a surface arrainged to recieve them: used for sketching, exhibition purposes etc. t.LL: dark chamber-dict

Nature's poems carved on tables of stone -- the simplest and most emphatic of her glacial compositions. -John Muir The Mountains of California

When I'm ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my minds eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I'm interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without. -ansel adams

on the groundglass

It was however, in drawing or shading the image on the camera obscura that created a desire to make permanent the image as beautifully seen and realized in itself. Inspired by a scene and wishing to draw or paint it, an artist would but be mesmerized and entranced by the immediate beauty he saw on the groundglass which became itself evidence or seeing. The artist literally saw his whole inspiration manifestly appear on the plate.  -from my: origins of photography the camera obscura

Somebody gave me an old stationwagon. It was the man's fathers and was meticoulsy maintaned and cherished. He wanted someone to care for it. Out of respect for his deceased dad he couldn't see junking it. Few others could understand its language, It was Italian.

Spring is the time I order my art materials for the years projects. I questioned with the car, why order UPS? I idea''d:  'I'll pick up my materials in person, and do some shooting along the way.' So with the car that was tortured pulling a 20' trailer dreaerily across the alaskan highway roundtrip twice, I took off  on a two thousand mile trek through Oregon and California. My view camera was neatly paked in the back. The case of lenses beside it, and my sleeping bag and ice chest adjacent. Not AA's woody but it would do. Even had the roof platform!

My few days and dollars were winding down. I had yet to pull out the camera. Nothing seemed worthy of the required labor..There was little inspiration going on.

Still somewhere on the middle of California on my last day, I awoke before the sun and shot a landscaoe at sunrise with my 18" lens. The curse was broken. I shot three more. Another canyon I shot two more. Then another. At a lake underneath the towering  High Sierra above it, I shot another, reloaded film and started again. Every scene suddenly became inspiration.

Like a magnet highway 120 that goes into Yosemite drew me. Up and Up the poor old car with its 250,000 miles on the odo labored. Two more Shots. 7000 Feet. 9000 Feet.  The pass was still riddled with snow

Around the bend over the pass, the scene opened up to Tioga lake and an ancient glacial valley the ice just thawing on the alpine lake. The air was crisp and radiated brilliant light everywhere. The icy blue lake, brilliant golden sun, demanded attention like a contradiction. I stopped in a pull out and surrended to the scene. I set up and studied the scene. I was already tired having exposed the better part of a box of film already that morning. The question arose does theory precede or follow practice?

I was using an old retired lens from the thirties which was little more than garage sale ware. I calculated zonal tones as the masters. I fought a bit of flare from the uncoated optics. Focus was labored, the challenge was keeping everything on the edge of a razors blade. The scene required perspective control of which I was yet a novice. I worked it, The detail was inviting, from the needles of the trees half a mile away to the detail of every ripple of the water reflecting tidbits of golden sun. One could make out the quartztlike crystal of the granite. I then became mesmorized with the water thirty feet down splashing on the rocks, the sun dancing its sparkles over the granite as type of life itself. I entered the scene right then and there. I found mysellf dancing in the spotlight  of sunlight under the pnuembra of each ripple I thought of Lewis': 'the eyes of Perelandra opened, as it were, inward, as if they were the curtained gateway to a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, a life that rocked in winds ans splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in thin-spun delicacy of mist.'

Car after car stopped, snapped a photo with an automated gizmo, and growled away just as quickly up the highway. I wondered if they ever even noticed what I was even seeing.

It must have been an anomoly.  A guy with a camera more 19th century than anything must have looked as the pages of a history book. The image on the groundglass was gorgeous, I wanted to hold it, and then share it forever. A couple from Germany were enjoying the scene with more than usual tourist regard. I invited them to look at the groundglass under the darkcloth.

They too became mesmorized, and thanked me for momentary and mysterious glimpse of heaven's light in the 'air the angels breathe;' 

We had both seen exactly what inspired Fox-Talbot at the beginning.

Not quite the scene before us, but like a sketch, an image of the scene on the groundglass that was wholly enchanting and irresistable in itself as it played on the minds eye.

The artist penetrates the concrete world in order to find at its depths the image of its  source, the image of ultimate reality."  -Flannery O Conner from My Mimesis

The rediscovery-of-the magic of the world under the debris of modem ideas.  -saul bellow

Comments on Camera Lucida