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Dead medium: Camera Obscuras Existing Today
From: From: FAX 604-267-6732 (William Gibson); (Lars-Erik Astrom); (Stefan Jones); (Richard Kadrey) Sterling)

From: From: William Gibson (FAX 604-267-6732): "My friend, the artist Rodney Graham, has been building and using camera obscuras for 20 years. His first, constructed in Rome after his camera was stolen, was a matchbox with a lot of black tape. They got bigger, some of them becoming purpose-built buildings with projection screens on the rear wall, positioned to capture the image of a particular tree. The latest, commissioned by the French government, is mounted on a museum-grade reproduction of a U.S. Post Office horsedrawn delivery wagon. He makes huge prints with the bigger CO's, and travels the world looking for perfect trees to photograph this way. Nice images, the faint inverted tree, and so odd somehow there's no lens.

"There is a CO built into one of the base-pylons of the SF-Oakland Bay bridge. You stand inside in utter darkness and see an inverted Bayscape. This is just a rivet-hole but it's presumed to have been left deliberately open. One of the most secret monuments of the Bay Area."

From: (Lars-Erik Astrom); "The Camera Obscura is, however, not quite deceased yet. There are 10 room-sized ones in the British Isles (according to WWW-info, I forgot the URL). There are two in South Africa (Pretoria and Grahamstown, a third one is planned for MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg). There might be some in other countries too. I do recommend anyone to visit a Camera Obscura when available, it really is a nice experience, even in today's multimedia society."
From: (Stefan Jones); "There's a camera obscura intended for *public entertainment* at Point Lobos in SF; the backgrounder sheets tacked to the wall suggest that they were once a common attraction. The image is projected from a rotating turret above onto a circular horizontal screen, around which patrons cluster to point and exclaim.

"I had a chance to check it out yesterday, but passed it up in favor of getting four more quarters to use in the 'Musee Mechanique' around the corner; said arcade has all sorts of funky coin-op dioramas. Also working mechanical music instruments (player pianos, Regina music boxes, roll organs, etc.) and those scary coin-op automata that tell fortunes & etc."

From: (Richard Kadrey) "The Musee and Camera Obscura are famous old attractions around here in San Francisco. I love taking out of towners down there. The scary thing is that the site was threatened a couple of years ago when some ninnies at Parks & Recreation wanted to tear down the CO and Musee to put up another pointless multimedia nature exhibit. We're lousy with them here. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and a little bit of weird SF and media history were saved."

(((bruces remarks: inspired by these commentaries, I conducted a web-search for existing Camera Obscuras, unearthing quite a few. Clearly it's quite difficult for a "medium" this simple: a hole in the wall, a dark room, maybe a lens == to ever become "dead." However, the Camera Obscura is well past its heyday as a popular attraction, and most of today's Camera Obscura sites are historical relics. It would be pleasant to have a definitive Dead Media list of Camera Obscuras worldwide, so please send in reports of missing ones that you may discover. One more thing: it would also be pleasant to know whether the official plural is "camera obscuras" or "cameras obscura.")))

The San Francisco Camera Obscura:

Source(s): Citysearch site, San Francisco

ADDRESS: 1096 Point Lobos, San Francisco 94121

PHONE: (415) 750-0415

HOURS: Daily 11:00am

PRICES: Adults $1, children under 5 free.

"A survivor of now-razed San Francisco amusement park

Playland at the Beach, the timeless Camera Obscura today

takes on a positively new age aura. Go ahead, mesmerize


The Dupont Planetarium in Aiken, South Carolina:


"The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center's Dupont

Planetarium at USC-Aiken consists of a 30-foot diameter

tilted aluminum dome by Astro-Tec, a state-of-the-art

Evans & Sutherland Digistar II starfield and graphics

projector, and Sky-Skan automated special-effects system.

This equipment has the capabilities of all-sky, video and

panoramic projection. The 46-seat planetarium chamber

houses the only-known 'camera obscura' in such a facility

anywhere in the world."

Dupont Planetarium

Ruth Patrick Science Education Center

University of South Carolina - Aiken

171 University Blvd

Aiken, SC 29801

Phone: 803-648-6851

The Garden of the Gods Camera Obscura, Colorado Springs,



"Garden of the Gods is situated on the northwestern

outskirts of Colorado Springs, in the angle formed between

I-25 and US24 and Colorado State Road 24. Garden of the

Gods is a park. The main attraction is the large number of

weirdly shaped red sandstone rock formations which were

created by natural erosion. The Garden of the Gods Camera

Obscura (small entrance charge) is an intriguing device

which projects a live image onto a flat circular table.

The camera gradually revolves through 360 degrees, with

the image changing as this happens. When the camera is

pointing in the correct direction, Pikes Peak can be

clearly seen."

The Torre Tavira Camera Obscura, Cadiz, Spain


"Climb Torre Tavira (Marques del Real Tesoro 10), a

small Moorish tower which offers panoramic views of the

city from its camera obscura."

Australian Camera Obscuras:


(((bruces remarks: I have no idea who these people are,

but discovering lost hobbyist souls like this, toiling

away in their utter obscurity, a mere clickstream away from

us, toiling away in our own utter obscurity == it's truly

one of the marvels of modern search-engineering. Does

anyone have a working email address for "Mike Feist?"

Perhaps some helpful Necronaut in Britain would care to

call Mr. Feist up and ask him how he's getting on with the

great work == his telephone number would appear to be Tel

01273 422540.)))

"Mike Feist is attempting to assemble a complete list of

working and lost camera obscura around the world. For

Australia and New Zealand he has the following


Toowoomba, Queensland. The only definite working camera

obscura in Australia.

Dromana, Arthurs Seat, Mornington Peninsula. Reported up

to about 1966 but probably now gone.

Sydney, Manly Beach. Built 1890. Now gone.

Possibly one at The Powerhouse Museum. (They did not reply

to my letter)

Ms Irene Goard of Photantique, 117 Flinders Street,

Darlinghurst, NSW may have one. (No reply received)

Napier, New Zealand. Often reported and in an aquarium.

Still require some real facts.

Palmerston North, Old Science Museum, North Island, NZ.

(No proper address - no reply)

Mike Feist 's address is:

Foredown Tower Camera Obscura, Foredown Road, Portslade,

BN41 2EW, East Sussex, England.

The Albany Museum Observatory Camera Obscura, Grahamstown,

South Africa


"The Observatory is a unique multi-storeyed 19th

century Victorian shop and home which is now a museum. Its

unusual features include a Camera Obscura, today a rare

Victorian amusement, and the only one ever build in South

Africa." (((sic)))

The Edinburgh Camera Obscura and Outlook Tower, Edinburgh,

Scotland, UK:

Source(s): compiled from various British tourist websites

"Situated at the top of Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile,

the Camera Obscura provides a unique panorama of the City.

The rooftop terrace of Outlook Tower allows you to capture

the amazing views with your own camera. Also fascinating

exhibitions, notably a collection of holograms (many for

sale in the superb gift shop)."

Address: 549 Castlehill Royal Mile, EDINBURGH EH1 2ND

Telephone UK: 0131-226-3709; International: +44 131-226-


Fax UK: 0131-225-4239; International: +44 131-225-4239

Open: Daily, from 10.00am.

The Great Aberystwyth Camera Obscura, Aberystwyth, Wales


"A small seaside town situated on the West coast of Wales,

overlooking the expanse of Cardigan Bay. Its promenade is

lined by Victorian Terraces, and bounded at one end by the

harbour (now converted to a 'marina') and at the other by

Constitution Hill, with its boasts of 'the largest

electric cliff railway in the world' and 'the largest

camera obscura in the world.'"

(((And finally, we find a noble group of British

professional media historians at, who have

done much of our work for us, at least in their own home

country. This list may be the handiwork of Mr. Mike

Feist, considering that his own CO is listed first and


British Camera Obscuras:


"Please note that some of them are not in working order

and not all of them are open to the public."

Foredown Tower Countryside Centre

Foredown Road


East Sussex

BN41 2EW

Tel 01273 422540

The Camera Obscura


l Edinburgh


Tel 0131 2263709

Great Aberystwyth Camera Obscura

Constitution Hill


Contact: Mr Griffin

Cliff Railway House

Cliff Terrace



SY23 2DN

Tel 01970 617642

The camera obscura is open from the weekend before Easter

until the end of October.

The Observatory

Dumfries Museum

Church Street



Tel 01387 253374

The Clifton Observatory

Litfield Place

Clifton Down


Tel 01272 741242

The Old Royal Observatory



SE10 9NF

Tel 0181 312 6774

The Camera Obscura

The Water Tower

City Walls


Contact: The Grosvenor Museum

27 Grosvenor Street



Tel 01244 311610

Camera Obscura open from April - October.

The Camera Obscura

Portmerion Village



LL48 6ET

Contact: Mr Llewellyn 01766 770228

Visitors by appointment only.

The Barrie Pavilion

Kirriemuir Hill




The Camera Obscura is inside a cricket pavilion built as a

gift to the town by the author J.M.Barrie. It is looked

after by Kirriemuir Community Council.

Contact: Robert Berry

44 Cortachy Crescent




Visitors by appointment only.

The Camera Obscura


Isle Of Man

Contact: Mr M.E.Fargher

Chief Executive

Department of Local Government

Murray House

Mt Havelock

Isle Of Man


Tel 01624 685685

This has been purchased by the Manx government and is

closed to the public pending renovation. Access can be

arranged for serious researchers.

William Gibson (FAX 604-267-6732);
Lars-Erik Astrom (;
Stefan Jones (;
Richard Kadrey (
Bruce Sterling (