James McArdle, Camera Obscura

After Abelardo Morell, another contemporary artist who actively uses the Camera Obscura as a tool is James McArdle. James is Associate Professor in the Image: Photography/Graphics at Deakin University.

His recent series ‘Evanescent’ is a series of pictures made with a lens and a black t-shirt forming a makeshift Camera Obscura, in which he projects an image of the tree canopy above down onto the micro-world of the forest floor. The results recapture the child-like joy to be had in the experience of optical devices, confusing ordinary spatial relations so that the macro and the micro become confused and conflated: ‘the world in a grain of sand’ to quote William Blake.

“In the  steep, trackless locations in which I am making these images, my means are necessarily … makeshift; my camera and lens able to be carried in a backpack. The resultant project is not systematic but intuitive and responsive to prevailing conditions and the effect on the projection caused by sun, shade, weather and situation. I am guided by the response of objects, textures and surfaces to the projected image and how they modulate and map it.”

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“Chrysalis [above] appears as a scenic projection from a hand-held camera lens and simultaneously as the litter of the forest floor. It is produced with a makeshift camera-obscura. The nebulous silhouettes of trees, some blurred under the passing clouds of a summer wind resolve here and there into lines curled across the surface of a fallen leaf on which a moth chrysalis adheres. The leaf assumes Brobdingnagian proportions and thickness as the evanescent image shrinks and is foreshortened in the enlarged dust and grit. It manifests the unique sight anchored at this particular point in a fixed vegetable and mineral world. Near and far, large and small, superimpose, trigonometrically exact in their adjacency and spatial relations.”

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