"Camper Obscura" Turned a Camper Van into a Mobile Camera Obscura

Traveling around Britain, the Camper Obscura is used to teach people about the magic of optics from inside a converted camper van

camper obscura
camper obscura

Since 2010, a modified camper van known as Camper Obscura has been touring around England. Visiting schools, fairs, and festivals, this modified 1986 camper van has brought one of the oldest photographic techniques to the general public — the camera obscura.

A camera obscura is a remarkably low-tech, and easy to craft phenomenon. You can even make one in your own house. But the Camper Obscura was designed by Matt Pontin and Jon Blyth of Fotonow as an educational outreach tool, and allows people to see a camera obscura without hunting around to try and block light leaks in their own room.

The camper is light-sealed, and has the lens of the obscura mounted above the roof of the car. It can be swivelled around 360° to see anywhere in the outside world, and is then projected down into the camper's internals, onto a plain white sheet.

Talking to Lomography, the inventors discussed what it's like taking someone inside the Camper for the first time:

The space is tranquil as you sit on comfortable old cushions, we all cluster around an unspectacular piece of white board waiting for our eyes to adjust to the light falling on to the white space that eventually becomes an image of the world projected from the outside.

It’s easy to forget where you are when you are gathered closely in the dark space with other people, trying to comprehend what your seeing, trying to absorb that no electricity or computers are involved. Because the lens in the turret can be rotated 360 degrees by a cog and rope, we’ve recently noticed really young children think they are controlling the moving image like a touch screen on a phone or iPad. This is a recent observation, we are able to relate to small children in terms of technological changes, from the camera obscura right through to modern touch screen cameras in mobile phones.

As part of the project, Pontin and Blyth have snapped instant photos of every person who has stepped through the doors of the Camper Obscura, creating a permanent reminder of a fleeting and temporal occurrence.

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