Camera Obscura

The Camera Obscura was the first camera. It is believed that the idea of a Camera Obscura dates back to the times of Aristotle (around 300 B.C.), but it is not known who the first person was to come up with the idea. The first Camera Obscuras were completely dark rooms with a small whole on one side. The light from outside would shine through the hole and create an upside down image on the opposite wall. The first Camera Obscuras were used for entertainment purposes and the novelty of seeing things projected upside-down. Later, artists began to bring large pads of paper into the Camera Obscuras and trace what was projected. These were the first "photographs" although they still required hours of an artist's time to produce. The camera obscura was made smaller and smaller and it evolved from the size of a room to a manageable and portable size. These portable cameras used the same principles as their larger counterparts, but they were a bit more complex. Inside of the smaller camera obscuras was an angled mirror. This mirror would reflect the projected image upward were there was a piece of glass. The artist would place a piece of paper on top of this glass and then trace the image. These tracings were much smaller than the ones produced by the larger camera obscuras and thus took much less time to produce. The technology behind the Camera Obscura was extremely basic, but it paved the way for more advanced technologies (such as lenses and light sensitive chemicals) to make photography the advanced field that it is today.

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4 Drawings by Canaletto made using a Camera Obscura Courtesy of:

Smaller Camera Obscura  Courtesy of:
Smaller Camera Obscura Courtesy of: