The Portable Camera Obscura is a single-day pop-up exhibition that will travel to four different Philadelphia city parks during the spring and summer of 2018. Free and open to the public for exploration, the exhibition will consist of a temporary “room” constructed of PVC and blackout fabric that can be entered by viewers.
Completely dark except for a small hole in one of the panels, the room will appear empty until the viewers’ eyes adjust, and then slowly reveal the view of the outside world projected on the wall across from the hole. Through the “magic” of optics, the image will appear upside down, but its reality will be apparent. Once adjusted, the participants can remain in the room and experience life moving outside of them from the perspective of the camera.
In this digital age of distraction, we are met with fewer and fewer opportunities to engage with the world around us in real time. The goal of The Portable Camera Obscura is simple: to encourage members of Philadelphia communities to be present in their environment, observing their surroundings through the active “seeing” that the camera encourages.
To assess the outcome, participants will be encouraged to share their experiences both in real time and using social media. A stack of post-it notes with the question, “What did you see?” will be available for participants to write on and post on an outer wall of the obscura. Viewers will also be encouraged to share their reactions on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #ObscuraPHL.
Through these exchanges, I hope to foster dialog about the experience of seeing as well as a new appreciation of the spaces we inhabit together.
Funded by Philadelphia, PA (November 2017)