Portable Camera Obscura

Trudi Lynn Smith

Portable Camera Obscura is a walk-in, room-sized camera. The tent structure is a lightproof environment that projects and image of the outside view onto the back wall and side of the inside of the tent with a simple lens. It was first positioned in the exact location of popular photographic views in national parks in Canada, whereby viewers could literally get inside the camera through a small doorway. Once inside, the dark room with images reflected inside – upside down and backwards - became a site to loiter, and to have conversations. Viewers enter the tent to see the view and participate in that photographic moment. Slightly removed from the outside world, but still a part of it – sounds permeate through the tent walls, there is ground under foot, and the breeze stirs the image projecting on the wall – the setting providing ideal ground to think about technology, representation, and viewing as well as the notions of in between or otherwise, liminal spaces and ecotones.

This work is site-specific and nomadic. It is a temporary place whereby relationships are formed and facilitated beyond economic exchanges. Through its design, it references the history of mobility in national parks (impermanent residences such as tents and trailers) and in thinking about the history of photography, it offers an alternative view to the way that institutional authorities make the world comprehensible to the viewer through parks interpretation, maps, and guidebooks.