Brief History of Photography: Camera Obscura and Vermeer

But first, this. A different way of thinking about why we take photographs

Abelardo Morrell: Youtube

Abelardo Morell’s website.

The connection between lens making, photography and Vermeer:
David Hockney’s, A Secret Knowledge. You can find the entire documentary on Youtube. Here is Hockney on the Charlie Rose show

The book.

Not everyone agrees with Hockney’s thesis. Some counter arguments, here and here. The later one is perhaps the most valid because its author is a scholar. Hockney’s project has inspired further exploration and scholarship.

Jerry Spagnoli: contemporary daguerreotypist. A video presentation. His website.

BBC program: The Genius of Photography

George Eastman House on Flickr

“Tim’s Vermeer”a documentary by Penn and Teller (yes, THAT Penn and Teller) about one man’s obsession with discovering Vermeer’s secrets. Hint: camera obscura! Trailer | NY Times article

Camera Obscura made from natural elements


1997_001_Camera-Obscura-Image-of-The-Grand-Tetons-in-Resort-001.jpgMore Abelardo Morell | Above image is The Grand Tetons in the Resort Room, 1997

Short video detailing the Camera Obscura in San Francisco.

The Dyer Star Chamber at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee)

Great source (terrible design) all about camera obscura!

Site about custom camera obscura design.

Contemporary artists using camera obscura: 


Trudi Lynn Smith

Abelardo Morell Tent Camera Obscura in Big Bend National Park

Experiment #3 Drawing and photography

The artwork of Trevor and Ryan Oakes—identical twins who use drawing to investigate vision and sometimes mimic the results of a camera obscura. The Oakes produce their drawings on curved paper, because the curved surface mimics they way light enters the eye. The video won’t embed, so watch it” target=”_blank”>here.

Read more about the artists in this piece: Redrawing an iconic photograph with camera-like precision from The New York Times.

The video references this iconic image, Edward Steichen’s, The Flatiron Building, (1905)


Another video of the Oakes drawing machine:



Abelardo Morell

Camera Obscura: Early Morning View of the East Side of Midtown Manhattan, 2014

Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: Early Morning View of the East Side of Midtown Manhattan, 2014

Just some inspiration for your What is Photography? assignment. This image is by Abelardo Morell. He creates custom camera obscura, often turning an entire room into a camera, and then photographs the camera-less image. So what you’re looking at is a photograph of an image produced by a camera obscura. Got it?

The image is from Morell’s upcoming exhibition at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York.

From Daguerrotype to Digital: a brief history of colour photography

George Eastman House’s photostream on Flickr. Excellent historic images.

Short video about the Autochrome process, from The ImageWorks in Rochester, NY.

Concise History of Color Photography with excellent images and text.

The George Eastman House: Notes on Photographs: An international forum for gathering information that enhances the communal understanding of the photographic print.

A short video about the history of color photography from the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC)

History and manufacture of Lantern Slides.

The scandal and possible truth surrounding Levi Hill who claimed to have invented color photography.




(Image from the New York Times Magazine)

This is the first DIGITAL (filmless) camera. 1975!
Wonder why it took so long to be on the consumer market? Read this.




colorful pixels


A list of links about the origins of the digital camera, as well as other connections between photography and technology.
Because we can’t talk about current photography without talking about the scourge of the Selfie (yuck) here is a site, SelfieCITY that  Investigates Selfies in five cities across the world. Explore the site, especially the essays.


PICTURES OF CATS! (before the Internet)

Just in case you think cats + social media is new, (mew?) it’s not.

Maker: S.L. Upham & Fowler
Title: Cat / opaque background
Date: ca. 1875
Medium: albumen print
Dimensions: Image: 9.5 x 5.5 cm Mount: 10.1 x 6.2 cm


This image is from the George Eastman House Flickr Feed.


This is Now! : This site showcases the latest image uploaded to Instagram based on geo-tag locations.

If you’re on Instagram, and want more followers, leave your instagram name in the comments. I’m Mrs.JonathanHart. Yes, Hart to Hart. The TV show.


If you’re interested in more information about the History of Photography, check out this and this.



In the above posts, you’ll find a brief history of the camera obscura, how many painters such as Vermeer used a camera obscura to aid in his painting, as well as contemporary artists who use the camera obscura.

If you’re interested in the connection between Vermeer and the camera obscura, this is a compelling documentary:

Tim’s Vermeer” a documentary by Penn and Teller (yes, THAT Penn and Teller) about one man’s obsession with discovering Vermeer’s secrets. Hint: camera obscura! Trailer | NY Times article | TIFF summary




Tim’s Vermeer, in Guelph!

Tim’s Vermeer!

I’ve mentioned the camera obscura and the film Tim’s Vermeer in both Photo I and Photo III. The movie is in Guelph, this week, at the Bookshelf Cinema.  If you’re old-fashioned enough to see movies legally, check it out. It’s playing Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 and Friday at 7pm.

Here is the Rotten Tomatoes Review | Globe and Mail review

Don’t remember what I’m talking about? Review the camera obscura and its profound impact on the history of image making and painting here.

Final Project Research

For my final project for Photo III, I am working with my scanner to attempt to take pictures with it through the means of a camera obscura and a modified scanner.  My interest lies in the interest of combining new technology with the oldest known camera.  I am interested in creating photographs without the use of what everyone knows to be a conventional camera.  I am also interested in capturing images from film and videos, in an attempt to capture a moment in time that has already been captured, and then reassembled into a moment that can be viewed an infinite amount of times, through an infinite amount of devices.
A few artists and things that have inspired me, or stuck with me while I was thinking about this theme for my project were Hiroshi Sugimoto who captures images via long exposures of movie theatres, seascapes, and architectural buildings.  Although he uses a conventional camera, the images that are captured I find quite engaging and it is based on a similar work style in thematic and possibly visual aspects.  Another source of inspiration that I found helpful when thinking about my work is Idris Khan.  With his use of appropriation in some works and layering in most, the aesthetic qualities are visually compelling, but also aid in the ideas of using appropriation from different sources.  Another source of inspiration that is behind a lot of what I do is Gordon Matta-Clark. I find him to be a very compelling figure in the field of art, and the images that are provided as documentation of his works are very interesting to me.  Oh and also Simon Starling.

I have Links below to information about the artists mentioned and also the technical aspects of my project.

Simon Starling:
simon starling lko

Gordon Matta-Clark:

Idris Khan:

Hiroshi Sugimoto:

Camera Obscura:

MOMA’s Version:
David Hockney’s Version:

Model for a camera obscura that is similar to the one I will be making:

Scanner Camera: