Colin Smith “Camera Obscura” @ The Whyte Museum

The camera obscura which literally means “dark room” is a device that makes use of an optical phenomenon in which light rays reverse themselves when they pass through a small aperture. At its most basic basic, light rays pass through a tiny hole and recreate themselves upside down on a surface that is placed parallel to the hole.

Calgary photographer, Colin Smith has produced a series of large format images taken within camera obscuras around Western Canada. He manipulates the light of the obscura projections as well as the natural light to produce highly saturated, breathtaking imagery. He photographs with 4 x 5 film transparencies, which he drum scans and reproduces as limited series archival pigment prints.

Approximately eight years ago Colin Smith’s daughter was curious about what photography was all about and how it worked so, Colin decided to build a camera obscura in his daughters’ bedroom. He left it up for a week and over that time they spent countless hours watching the world outside play like a movie, inverted, on the bedroom walls. While sitting in his daughters’ room watching the upside down image it occurred to him that the project he was working on (abandoned places) could be an interesting subject to try the camera obscura process. He went about creating camera obscuras in abandoned places and loved the results of the outside landscapes juxtaposed against the interiors of the buildings. These images challenge the viewer’s perceptions of what was actually being projected from outside.

As a child Colin recalls that family vacations consisted of long road trips. It was those wonderful memories that carried on to his adulthood and stimulated his passion for international travel. Photographically, the next natural progression was for him to use his family Boler trailer as a camera obscura. At the beginning of this project he would travel and camp with his family and use the Boler as his camera obscura. Later it became necessary to separate those family trips and head out with the sole purpose of photographing. The results of the Boler camera obscura are whimsical and lyrical interpretations of a sense of place.