My practice as a maker began with the “projected image” and with extensive experiments with “camera obscuras”. Seeing Camera Obscura as the primitive ancestor of modern cameras is a fundamental mistake. One should be reluctant to even call it a “device”. Literally meaning “dark room”, all there is to camera obscura is a hole. It does not even have to be dark (obscura). Whenever there is a hole, there is an image projection (from the brighter into the darker side of the hole), it just has to be made dark enough for the human eye to see that projection. And of course, that is why there are notes on the workings of camera obscura (without calling it that) since antiquity. That is why Aristotle, three centuries before Christ, talks about an image seen through the leaves of a tree or through a hole made by “joining the fingers of one hand over the fingers of the other”.

Considering Camera Obscura not as a device, and certainly not as the most basic “camera” possible, but as the essence of the Projected Image is of critical importance in determining our perception of photography. One just by working with the projected image is essentially practicing photography, even if the outcome is not images fixed on a two-dimensional surface.



My staircase turned into a camera obscura. The shutter is on the entrance door of the building:







"Theater Obscura"

In the experiments I call “theater obscura”, a large optical device is built which accommodates the audience and provides them with a real-time image (projection) of the action outside the camera, which is where the performance is happening. Thus, these performances should be seen as experiments in terms of how the projected image can be used in ways other than being fixed on a surface, resulting in a still image.
Here, the projected image (which is a moving image by nature) is used in real-time and has to be experienced by an audience live. There is no registration of the projected image. Here, the spectacle is an optical projection.


Imagine a room-size lensed camera obscura, in which the audience sits and which creates the image that the audience will see. The “image surface” (the surface inside the device where the image is projected) should have the possibility to be moved in order to keep the image in focus (especially if the actor moves). There are several shutters (lensed holes) on different sides of the camera capable of projecting images in different angles inside the camera box. This approach also changes the usual spatial setting of a performance/theater. Viewers are placed inside the large room-size camera (in total darkness) to see the projected image of the actors performing outside the camera box.

Besides the technical aspects, these works argue for the fluidity and comprehensiveness of photography as the practice of making optical images. These theater obscura works should be seen as experiments in terms of developing an interdisciplinary performative practice which has its roots in photography.







Box camera obscuras

The following images illustrate my extensive experiments over time with box camera obscuras. The images are stills from videos shot with a gopro camera placed inside the box and facing the "image surface".


© Alireza Abbasy