In almost every pocket, purse, and backpack is one device or another capable of capturing an image, but rarely do you see one that’s several stories tall.
Blueprints for Observation is a new photo series by Vancouver artist and photographer Joel Nicholas. Using a technique called camera obscura – Latin for “dark chamber” – Nicholas turned several rooms in a storage facility set for demolition into camera chambers, capturing images of the Vancouver skyline.
Blacking out four rooms in the former West End Mini Storage at 1480 Howe Street – facing north, south, east, and west – Nicholas drilled holes in the walls to let the light in. When natural sunlight shined through the hole, it projected onto lithographic film, naturally capturing the scene outside the walls.
“I want people to be interested in the actual process, and the antiquity of the camera obscura,” says Nicholas. “A lot of people don’t realize it isn’t even technology, it’s just a natural phenomenon.”
The final photographs were produced as cyanotype prints, which use blueprint paper to produce extremely long-lasting and durable photographs. According to Nicholas, blueprints are one of the best forms of archival photography, able to outlast even silver gelatin prints. This was the impetus for his project in the first place; capturing a piece of Vancouver as it is, here and now.
“The city is not going to look the same in even just a few years,” he says. “In five or ten years the prints will be unrecognizable. It’s about historical documentation in a very specific moment of time and place. Everything is changing, and everyone kind of has a responsibility when everything is changing, whether they know it or not.”
“The Big Picture” by Nigel Berringer, a documentary following the process, will be released later this year. More of Nicholas’ work can be found on Facebook.
There is an opening for the series Friday, August 28 at the Woodward’s Building at 333 Abbott Street, from 8 to 10 p.m. The series will be on display until October.