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The Camera Obscura at UNC

Part work of art, part object lesson in physics, a working camera obscura is a rare treat for anyone interested in learning more about the history of either profession. From the Latin for "dark room," the name was given to this phenomenon of light by astronomer Johannes Kepler in the 1600's. The idea behind the camera obscura is much older, however. Mentioned in historical records dating to the 5th century BC, and later in the writings of Aristotle, Alhazen of Basra, and Da Vinci, the camera obscura is in many ways the technological prototype for the modern camera. Based on the principle that light passing through a tiny opening in a dark room will be inverted on the opposing wall, the camera obscura is as mysterious as it is simple. UNC is fortunate to have a working example of a camera obscura right here on campus. Located outside of the Hanes Art Center and Ackland Art Museum, the camera obscura is housed in a little red shed with a conical roof. This exhibit is open to the public, and there are instructions for how to obtain access posted outside the door. A key is kept inside one of the buildings, so the camera obscura can only be accessed during regular business hours. UNC's camera obscura was the brainchild of Associate Art Professor Elin o'Hara Slavick, who constructed it with the help of a photography class. [41] [42].


The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill

All Text and Photos © 2004.