Teachers Lesson Plans

Drawing With Light

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Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura Image of Times Square, New York, 1997 and Eric Renner, John Wood at Penland, 1974

How does each photographer form his image?

Both Abelardo Morell and Eric Renner used the optical principle of the camera obscura to form their images. Morell turned a hotel room in New York City into a giant camera. He blocked out all the light entering the room, except for a 3/8” hole on one window. Morell used a large format camera, placed inside the room, to capture the projected image of Times Square in black-and-white. The exposure took more than eight hours. The home-made pinhole camera that Eric Renner used was small compared to Morell’s. Renner loaded his camera with black-and-white film to capture the image directly. Light entered Renner’s camera through 19 pinholes, recording 19 separate portraits of John Wood on the film. The exposure took about 10 minutes. Renner contact-printed the final photograph.

Neither Morell nor Renner used lenses to focus their images. Both understood the relationship between focal length and pinhole diameter. The clarity of both images is startling. It is a testimony to patient experimentation and to both men’s skill as photographers.