Before Photography

"When I photograph, what I'm really doing is seeking answers to things." - Wynn Bullock

Marion Palfi, In the Shadow of the Capitol, 1948.











Photography = light writing

Three things needed to create a photograph:
Optical device that can control light
Chemical process that can reproduce the effects of light on a surface
Chemical process that can fix light (the image) permanently
Eventually, a market for multiples will open, but at first, seems unnecessary
Sunlight Through Trees at Dawn, 2006











1. The Optical Device


camera obscura = a dark room with a small pinhole on one wall through which
a beam of light travels, is inverted, and is projected onto an opposing wall


Room Size Camera Obscura

17th century drawing of a room size camera obscura











Mo Ti


Ibn al Haytham

5th century Chinese philosopher Mo Ti created the first known camera obscura, which he called the "locked treasure room"
Muslim scientist & mathematician Ibn al Haytham wrote a famous book (c. 950) on optics that explained the nature of light, which he observed using what is now known as the camera obscura























Aristotle's vision

Camera obscura effect observed through tree by Aristotle in 330 BC
Solar eclipse projected through trees on sidewalk, 2017











Jonathan Ausubel, Solar eclipse observed through telescope and leaves, 2012












camera lucida
Drawing with a Camera Lucida


create your own camera lucida











Tim's Vermeer











Rentesses of the Old Men's Alms House
Frans Hals, Regentesses of the
Old Men's Alms House
, 1664.
Jan Vermeer, The Music Lesson, 1662 - 1665.






















Jan Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at Window, 1657 - 1659.


Vermeer's Camera website











The Orientalist

Physionotrace as illustrated by Walton Ford, The Orientalist, 1999.











tracing a silhouette
Silhouette machine
silhouette tracing











contemporary silhouette artist































Evolution of the Camera Obscura, Predecessor of the Modern Camera
a. Sixteenth-century cambera obscura
b. Seventeenth-century camera obscura
c. Nineteenth-century table model camera obscura










Abelardo Morrell, Camera Obscura Image of Houses Across the Street in Our Living Room, 1991.
Abelardo Morrell, Camera Obscura Image of Times Square in Hotel Room, 1997.






















Vera Lutter Camera Obscura at LACMA




















San Francisco Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura in San Francisco behind The Cliff House