Students join to construct mobile camera on campus

The camera obscura originally resided between Romney Gym and Gaines Hall. Now its new temporary home is the Emerson Cultural Center. Photo by Nicole Smith.
The camera obscura originally resided between Romney Gym and Gaines Hall. Now its new temporary home is the Emerson Cultural Center. Photo by Nicole Smith.

After nine weeks of work by students and instructors from a variety of artistic disciplines, MSU is now home to a camera obscura. This structure is a portable building that welcomes visitors who wish to view a real-time projection of the outside world on the screen above them.

 

A camera obscura is a light-tight structure outfitted with a lens system that enables viewers to see a live, projected image within a space.

The group of 17 students from the course Creative Collaboration 499, along with instructors Jonathan Long and Bill Clinton, have spent an average of 20 hours per week over the past three months bringing the Camera Obscura Project to life.

 

The class is a conglomerate of architecture, art and photography students which, according to the instructors, has prevented one academic area from dominating the project and produced a collaborative, creative learning environment and process. “This is a one-of-a-kind class,” said Gwendolyn Courtney, a photography student, “a life experience.”

 

Each class member was involved in creating the structure, from conceptualizing the camera itself, working on the design and layout, and sorting through the process of acquiring permits allowing the camera obscura to be built and remain on campus for an extended period of time.

 

“It took us a week or two to learn how to work together efficiently since we were all from different departments, and once we got past that, things started moving forward,” said Aaron Hyatt, a photography student.

According to the instructors, Clinton from the architecture department and Long from the photography department, this camera obscura is unique, not only because it is a sturdy building, but also because it is meant to be moved throughout campus, the community and perhaps even across the state.

 

Long stated there were three main goals that had to be met for completion of the project: a time frame, a budget and a mobile structure. Clinton added that the camera can be taken down and reassembled in about four hours.

Several class members explained that the hope for the Camera Obscura Project is that the camera will remain on campus for a very long time, with the potential to be shared with other Montana communities.

The Camera Obscura will be placed in different locations around campus for the remainder of the semester, following a brief trip to Bozeman’s Emerson Center for Arts & Culture.