Not too long ago, six photographer artists, namely Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Jerry Burchfield, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada along with a few hundred assistants constructed the world’s biggest camera obscura, or pinhole camera in building #115, an abandoned F/A-18 fighter jet hangar in Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Southern California. They transformed the hangar into a gigantic pinhole camera by darkening and sealing the inside from external light.
A pinhole less than a quarter-inch in diameter was placed in the middle between the metal hangar doors to act as the camera’s aperture. This immense pinhole camera was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest camera-obscura.
The gigantic camera shot an image of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station with the San Joaquin Hills as the backdrop. It appeared upside down and with a left to right orientation on film after being projected through the barely quarter-inch hole in the hangar’s metal door. A seamless piece of muslin cloth was used as the film.
It was rendered light sensitive by coating it with 21 US gallons of gelatin silver halide emulsion, and was hung from the ceiling of the hangar at a distance of approximately 80 feet from the pinhole. The exposure time was calculated at 35 minutes to be optimal.
It is called The Great Picture, but this is not only about size and world records. The image pays homage to the passing of an era and the beginning of another one; 170 years of film/chemistry-based photography yielding to digital technology. The mammoth photograph was unveiled on July 12, 2006 during a reception held in the hangar and was initially exhibited at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, on September 6, 2007.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has been host to the 3,375-square-foot Great Picture at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia since April 26 and will be there until November 2014.