Camera Obscura

Camera = Latin for "room"
Obscura = Latin for "dark"


sliding box web lenscap web camera obscura



The term camera obscura is taken from the Latin and means "dark room". Invented in the sixteenth century, the camera obscura is made out of an arrangement of lenses and mirrors in a box that is darkened, The machine permits accuracy in a drawing, often of topographical detail. When looking through the lens of a camera obscura, the view presented is actually reflected through the mirrors onto the paper or cloth and allows the artist to draw by tracing the outline.




Camera Obscura (L. dark chamber), an aid to painting, it consists of a darkened box into which the artist climbed with a small aperture in one wall through which light passes. This image is projected, inverted, onto the wall opposite. Later more sophisticated models added a lens to the aperture, increasing its affinity to the human eye or the photographic camera.



Camera Obscura, Athanasius Kircher, 1646

Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) (alt: Anastasius) in a book written in 1646, described one [a camera obscura] which consisted of an outer shell with lenses in the centre of each wall, and an inner shell containing transparent paper for drawing; the artist needed to enter by a trapdoor.


The term "camera obscura" was first used by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler in the early 17th century. He used it for astronomical applications and had a portable tent camera for surveying in Upper Austria.







Photographic Education

The other track became the camera obscura room, a combination of education and entertainment. In the 19th century, with improved lenses that could cast larger and sharper images, the camera obscura flourished at the seaside and in areas of scenic beauty. There are several pages that features images of camera obscura rooms such as this page on US park camera obscuras from our collection. Today the camera obscura is enjoying a revival of interest. Older camera obscuras are celebrated as cultural and historic treasures and new camera obscuras are being built around the world.


Camera Obscura, Georg Friedrich Brander (1713 - 1785), 1769

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