Creatively Exploring | Camera Obscura: Vignettes of the Utican Utopia
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Camera Obscura: Vignettes of the Utican Utopia

Camera Obscura: Vignettes of the Utican Utopia


The purpose of our project was to engage the students and community in dialog about our beautiful city through an art historical technique of the camera obscura. Utica has historic architecture and evidence of wealth and fame; we aimed to showcase this glory of the past with prints from the camera obscura. Using these photographs to depict this rich history in the style and texture of the past with the photos exhibited. To accomplish this, we employed a camera obscura to create large-scale images that utilized student narratives from English 101 and pinhole camera negatives from a dozen students in our Creativity in Art course and from students in Ceramic Sculpture. As part of the project, participants turned a room into a camera so they could experience the sensation of being inside the camera while writing students created prose that captured the experience. Ceramic Sculpture students created clay camera obscura sculptures in addition to negatives to be exhibited with the prints.

Intended Outcomes

The intention is to spark a dialog with our students and the community when exhibiting the photographs of the Utican landscape. By utilizing the historical technique of the camera obscura, we set out to create beautiful and descriptive photographs of our city. The prints present moments in time that are vignettes by the obscura process and imbue the viewer with nostalgia. The technique presents the illusion of history’s layers over our modern cityscape.

Unexpected Outcomes

Unexpected outcomes include the quiet and relaxed sensation of being inside the room sized camera obscura, and a feeling of detachment as if one is watching an old film movie of the surrounding world. Another surprise was the students’ excitement to create the camera obscura from scratch out of cardboard or clay. The clay cameras became sculptures themselves and an object as interesting as the elementary technology of the camera.

Materials and Methods

Clay Cardboard Photo Paper Foam Core

Connecting to the Community

Other Side Gallery, 2011 Genesee St. Utica, NY Reproductions of large prints produced by the room-size camera were displayed <br><br> Sculpture Space: John Von Bergen Gallery, 12 Gates Street, Utica, NY Reproductions of large prints, student prints, and clay cameras were displayed <br><br> Utica Public Library, 303 Genesee Street, Utica, NY Reproductions of large prints were displayed and camera obscura was set-up in the Music Room so the public could experience being inside the camera.

School(s) Involved

MVCC (Mohawk Valley Community College)


Todd Behrendt  <br> Christi Harrington  <br> Roger Honey  <br> Jim Roberts


Zach Duffy <br> Jessica Webster <br> Kelsey Richardson


March 13, 2016