In an age of digital photography when some people talk nostalgically about film it is easy to forget that cameras used to have pinholes instead of lenses. Although only taken in 2006 the world’s largest photograph was created with the rather retro method of turning an abandoned aircraft hanger into a massive pinhole camera. The final print stands at a vast 111 x 32 feet in size meaning it is rarely on public display. However, if you find yourself in the US then head to the Smithsonian in Washington between now and December where you can catch a rare glimpse of the picture in all its glory.Taken in California by a group of photographers and volunteers who transformed the aircraft hanger into a pinhole camera in order to commemorate the legacy project, recording the transformation of a former marine corps base into a national park. According to the ever useful Wikipedia:
Six photographer artists, Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada plus approximately 400 assistants built the world’s largest pinhole camera in building #115 at El Toro using 24,000 square feet (2,200 m2) six mil black visqueen, 1,300 US gallons (4,900 l) of foam gap filler, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of 2-inch (5.1 cm) wide black Gorilla Tape and 40 US gallons (150 l) of black spray paint to make the hangar light-tight.
A seamless piece of muslin cloth was made light sensitive by coating it with 21 US gallons (80 l) of gelatin silver halide and then hung from the ceiling at a distance of about 80 feet (24 m) from a pinhole, just under 6 millimetres (0.24 in) in diameter and situated 15 feet (4.6 m) above ground level on the hangar’s metal door. The distance between the pinhole and the cloth was determined to be 55 feet (17 m) for best coverage, and the exposure time was calculated at 35 minutes.
On top of that it took five hours to develop and required a a tray the size of an Olympic swimming. Digital photography isn’t effortless but its amazing to see how much collaboration is required for one picture and whether the results are worth it. What do you think?