The ‘camera obscura’ and the origins of photography


Preliminary notes from the Introduction to Project 1

(from Creative Arts Today, pages 142-4)

Project 1 on photography briefly considers the history of photography, seen at the crossing point between art and science, fact and fiction, and is an invitation to rethink some fundamental questions about art as asked in Part One from yet another point of view.

Questions are still the same and answers are still open:

Is art something that is exhibited or sold?

Or is it an individual response to a subject or a problem?

What is the relationship between art and its tools, be them a brush or a camera?

And where does photography belong? To art, to science, to technology?

And does it matter where it belongs?

Key words and information for future research

Camera obscura: in a darkened room a tiny hole on one side of the room projects an inverted image of the view through the hole onto the opposite wall.

Examples of a camera obscura can be seen in:

Edinburgh ( (Accessed 21/03/2017)

Bristol ( (Accessed 21/03/2017)

The camera obscura at Fontanellato Castle (Parma) is currently being restored ( (Accessed 21/03/2017)

For information on how the phenomenon of camera obscura was discovered and later used by painters like Vermeer and Caravaggio among others since the Renaissance: (Accessed 21/03/2017)

This video explains how a camera obscura works ( suggested by Creative Arts Today) (Accessed 21/03/2017)


These are videos I have found on the web about the history of camera obscura: (Accessed 17/03/2017) (Accessed 17/03/2017) (Accessed 17/03/2017)


Contemporary artists using the camera obscura

Creative Arts Today mentions some contemporary photographers who use the camera obscura for their art practice, among them:

Abelardo Morell (born in 1948 in Cuba)

information and images at: (Accessed 21/03/2017)

Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom, 2009


Mira Parilla

I was not able to find information on this artist.


Vera Lutter (born in Germany in 1960, lives in New York)

information and images at: (Accessed 21/03/2017)

333 West 39th Street, XIII: January 20 – 24, 2011


Brief notes on the origins of photography

Camera obscura was originally used as an aid to painting, and photography itself has been used since its invention to record artworks and bring them to a wider audience. In this sense there are I think obvious analogies between photography and the democratizing influence of the printing press which made it possible to disseminate texts and written knowledge.

First daguerreotype photographs date back to 1839. (Accessed 17/03/2017) (Accessed 17/03/2017)

Exhaustive essays on the daguerreotype from the MET website:

Daniel, Malcolm. “Daguerre (1787–1851) and the Invention of Photography.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004) [online] At: (Accessed 17/03/2017)

Daniel, Malcolm. “The Daguerreian Age in France: 1839–1855.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004) [online] At: (Accessed 17/03/2017)

Two very interesting videos on deguerreotype: (Accessed 17/03/2017) (Accessed 17/03/2017)



The invention and popularization of half-tone printing in the 1890s was paramount for an easy diffusion and access to photographs through journals and books. (Accessed 17/03/2017)

The first printed photo using a halftone in an American periodical, December 2, 1873



For a brief history of photography, I am now reading:

Edwards, S. (2006) Photography: A Very Short Introduction. [Kindle edition] From: (Accessed 17/03/2017)









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