I caught up with directors of Fotonow, Matt and Jon to talk about their Camper Obscura project – a mobile camera obscura in a 1986 VW transporter.
The Camper Obscura came about after several different experiences and interactions with good people. We’d been delivering temporary public camera obscuras with black cloth, cardboard and tape; blacking out local heritage centres in East Cornwall. This was part of a youth project to support young people on the program and enable them to gain confidence in managing the experience for members of the public.
The concept of a mobile obscura came from the desire to take experiences to people rather than expecting people to come to a physical place like a traditional gallery might.
In the sense of outreaching to a broad audience and public, we were inspired by the 1970’s work of Daniel Meadows and a chance meeting with a Liskeard resident named Derek Swindley who had built a camera obscura in a caravan during the 1980’s.
The Camper Obscura supports a greater understanding of the same principals of photography that young people are experiencing through the now everyday technologies found in mobile phones and commonplace affordable equipment. With this direct visual and shared experience they are able to see the evolving nature of visual technology. This is explored through a variety of formats including film, polaroid and conversations around the mechanisms of the eye, and is essentially the process of the camera obscura. Photography becomes the act of recording the still image from the obscura by technological programs and apparatus.
Fotonow has now been developing projects for over three years and worked with thousands of people through different projects and experiences across the South West and further afield in Derby, London and Brighton to name a few. We find ourselves regularly developing projects in Bristol with likeminded organisations and are in the midst of a project focused on developing a community orchard in Southway. We been given financial backing from the Heritage Lottery Funding to make new studies in our West End Voices work in the West End of Plymouth. Embark on the King Harry Ferry in Cornwall is now coming to the end of its sixth season, whilst exhibitions on the Tamar Bridge are ongoing alongside an exhibition of the first residency from Camper Obscura in St Aubyn’s chapel library in Devonport… That’s just the tip of the iceberg!
We’ve never used the camera to make studies or collections of photographic images. We realise that one day there will be quieter times which will allow us to simply see how the Camper Obscura can perform as a giant camera, making very large and unique images of places. Today it functions rather more like a giant tourist attraction and performance of photographic experiences
Fotonow will be bringing the Camper Obscura to Rook Lane on the 24th November from 10am – 4pm. All are welcome to come along and enjoy this great community experience.