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Portable Camera Obscura packed and ready for the Third-Street Artist-in-Residence Program, Lafayette College, PA, 2014.
Portable Camera Obscura on the Prince of Wales Hill, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada, 2009.

PORTABLE CAMERA OBSCURA

The installation Portable Camera Obscura is a walk-in, room-sized camera. The tent structure is a lightproof environment that projects an image of the outside view onto the back wall of the tent with a simple lens. First positioned in the exact location of popular photographic views in Waterton Lakes National Park, AB, in summer 2009, participants enter the tent to see the landscape projected onto the wall of the structure. The work is also about guiding participants on epic journeys: the camera is a portable structure, for hauling on expedition style journeys into the backcountry of parks and protected areas.

Project Context
I am interested in iconic landscapes and how they intersect with the history and present of photographic acts. Over time the continual enactment and re-enactment of photographs mean that certain representations form the mainstay of how we imagine iconic landscapes. I bring anthropology and art into a shared ethnographic space for a greater understanding of not only the material object itself, but of the experience of the photographic event, including the ground from where we make photographs. A significant interest in my art production is to understand how photographs are entangled in subjective, sensorial exchanges and to place emphasis upon the idea that there is no observation without participation. As such, I am interested in focusing on the photographic event and in ways of creating space for conversations about local photographic acts. This work takes the form of gallery installations, performance, site-specific interventions and online.

Portable Camera Obscura installed in Capitol Reef National Park (USA) Field Station as a part of the conference Mapping Meaning 2012

Portable Camera Obscura at Spiral Jetty with Honors College Class, University of Utah, 2014

Waterton Lakes National Park: the Prince of Wales Hill 2009-2010


"Waterton Lake from the Prince of Wales Hotel in Canada" 
Great Northern Railway Photo by Kabel. 
Early 20th century hand tinted photograph (50 x 72") purchased from eBay 2007.
In collection of the artist.

Portable Camera Obscura installed at the location from where Kabel took his photograph

Waterton Lake National Park: off of the Carthew Alderson Trail 2009


"Riggall's Meadow" Waterton Lakes National Park, AB by Bert Riggall early 20th century. 
Black and White photograph shot with a Kodak Panoram no. 4.
Courtesy of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

With copies of the archival photograph in hand, I guided six participants on a quest to relocate Riggall's panoramic photograph and install the Portable Camera Obscura. It was an overnight expedition into the backcountry of Waterton Lakes National Park to find the exact site of the initial photographic event. (installation photos by Trudi Lynn Smith, Lynette Hiebert, Jeff Weilki)


field guide

fieldguide, produced in conjunction with an exhibition at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta) is a set of postcards, a small booklet with an exhibition essay (written by Fiona McDonald) enclosed in a small, portable box. Structured around a walk in Waterton Lakes National Park, it is a navigational tool to relocate an historical photograph. It links the gallery experience of finding aid (on the subject of Waterton) to the en plein air experience of walking around Waterton.

FIELD NOTES 2008: tracker


I attempt to perfectly replicate an historical photograph by the legendary outfitter and photographer Bert Riggall from the popular viewpoint located on the Prince of Wales hotel hill in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. I arrange with his grandson to use the exact camera that Riggall shot this photograph with, the Kodak Panoram No. 1, manufactured around 1905. Some of my process and performance of trying to replicate the photograph with the very same camera that he shot the view with in the early 1900s is recorded here and was uploaded daily so that people could follow my quest.
DAY 10

August 03 12:29 - 12:45 14:45 - 16:00

between the rain and storm.
13 shots taken
located between the good sitting rock and the pathway that leads north. At the end of the pathway.
image 003-013
located at the stake 
attempt camera level
about 12 cm lower than 108 cm (96 cm) camera height
about 90 degree arm angle held against body
tmax 100 120
top loaded spring
16:00
a wedding party





DAY 9

August 02 2008 17:25 - 18:19
clouds , sun, very light breeze, pleasant

I have placed a rock on the hill. Sighting back to the sitting rock, 233 degrees wnw. 
Sighting from the new rock to Vimy's east summit, 124 degrees ese.
6.17 metres from sitting rock to the new rock.
A 02 005
200 cm forward/south from rock
25 cm left/east
on level
108 cm tripod height
tmax 100 120
lower spring
17:57
waited a long time for people to move out of the way.








August 02 2008 10:51 - 11:20
sun and heavy cloud (rising off peaks). breezy

Location 19  
The location is near the path leading north east.
50 cm south/forward and 25 cm east/left from location 15b.
inset a rock for relocation. pennies and bottle caps disappear.
image A02_003
bearing 180 degrees
on level
camera height 108 cm
tmax 100 120 





DAY 8

August 01 2008 11:51 - 12:25
sunny. rain clouds. severe wind. whitecaps. intense.
there are no people out as small rocks are pelting.

location 18
The location is at the edge of a trail.
The same as J29 location 15
from the rock: 33 cm south, 18 cm east, 50 cm south, 6 m east, 1.5 m south. 
bottle cap placed for re-location.
camera corner sighted to path 38 degrees northeast
bearing: 180 degrees
image 001
lower spring
tmax 100 120
camera height 108 cm




CLUES
the faint pathway meandering from the northeast to  where I stand


Overlay assessment:
slightly too much foreground on left
slightly too little foreground on right

resolutions:
1. tilt camera slightly down on right
2. move forward 25 cm
3. move up 1 cm

DAY 7
July 29 2008 14:20 - 16:10

9 shots taken moving forward (south) and left (east)
sunny and gusty wind with clouds

Location #15
The location is getting close to a trail that recedes northeast towards Linnet Lake
and the rolling hills beyond.
from the sitting rock: 
33 cm south & 18 cm east (location 7)
+ 50 cm forward
+ 6 metres left (east)
+ 1.5 metres forward (south)
bearing: 180 degrees 
on level
camera height 108 cm





Calculations on location 008
J 28 001
margin of error:
we have reached the limit of the method that uses measurements and points in mid and background. 
Movements within 5 metres are too refined for the method of calculating background and midground features.

actions/options
A qualitative assessment comparing J27 - 003 location 7 and J28 - 001 location 8, shows that we move up and/or forward to make the foreground smaller.

resolutions
1. move up 10 cm from J27 - 003 (108 cm height to centre of lens)
2. move forward in 25 cm increments

CLUES
the good sitting rock


DAY 6

July 28 2008 14:49 - 15:20
sunny and windy. thin veil of cirrus in places  and culumulus clouds. white caps on the water

location #7
The location is somewhere very near the good sitting rock. 
from location #6: 25 cm back, 5 cm down.
from good sitting rock: 33 cm south (to centre point); 18 cm east.
bearing: 180 degrees
image 001
lower spring
tmax 100 120
camera height 93 cm


Calculations on Location 006 (image 27-002)
assessment (closest location was image 27-003)
historical image = 1.00
x: 1.00
y: 1.3 move back
z: 1.01 move down

actions: (1) move back 25 cm, down 5 cm
(2) try from the good sitting rock







DAY 5

July 27 2008 16:33 - 17:11
location # 6
from location # 5  50 cm back, 25 left, 5 cm down
bearing: 180 degrees
image no. 002
shutter on bottom spring (slower)
Agfa APX 25 120 mm
camera height 103 cm



location #5
from location no. 4 50 cm back, 25 cm left, 5 cm down.
bearing 180 degrees
on level
image no 001
slower shutter (bottom spring)
Agfa APX 25
108 cm to camera top.





Calculations on location 4 (image 26-003)
asssesment
x (right/left) = slightly too high
y (forward/back) = too close
z (up/down) = too high 

Calculations on Riggall's early 1900s Panoram no. 1 photograph: point features and distances
DAY 4

July 26 2008 16:45 - 17:35

hot, humid, sunny. cumulonimbus cloud. wind.
location 4
photo-point is 150 cm directly west of location 2 and north 100 cm (towards a good rock for sitting or putting gear down on)
1331 mt 12U 0287884 5437952 5 mt accuracy
bearing: 180 degrees
image no. 003
fast shutter
tmax 100 120mm
height to camera top 113 cm












RELOCATING HISTORICAL PANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPHS WITH THE KODAK PANORAM NO. 1
With no viewfinder to speak of, the challenge of a panoramic swing lens, and the extremely wide field of view, re-photographing an historical photograph with the Kodak Panoram no. 1 is not a straight forward task. My usual method to repeat a photograph is to use the grid method, which we developed while working on the Rocky Mountain Repeat Photography project in 2004 (now the Mountain Legacy Project). However, in that project, we knew the centre of the image. We placed a grid screen in the camera viewfinder, which we duplicated in digital formate to lay onto our historical scanned images. By working back and forth between the digital print out of the historical image with a grid laid over it, and the grid in the camera viewfinder, we were able to make camera adjustments in the field.
In the case of the Panoram repeat, this method (even modified) was limited, so I decided to employ a method developed by Malde (1973) and expanded upon by Harrison (1974) to re-establish the location of the camera station. In this method we select prominent points in the historical image and then make measurements to compare to those in our daily repeat. Harrison selected four, but my field assistant David has selected a greater number for our calculations. Rather than use a grid that is connected to a frame, we use this method as it connects prominent points in the landscape. In short, we connect the grid to objects specifically in the photograph. This method verifies decision making about camera movements that might be more qualitative and provides more information to decide camera movements (including right or left, forward or back, up or down, tilt and pivot).
Historically photographers have used Polaroid in this method. They would shoot the image using a Polaroid back and onto polaroid film, draw on the lines, measure and then move the tripod, continuing until they had closely located the camera position. Then they could switch to a film back (without moving the camera out of the spot) and they could make their image. All of this would happen in the field. More recently, and with the demise of Polaroid, increasingly, photographers are modifying the method to use computers. While I was fortunate to have the historical camera to work with, this modification was not helpful. There is no digital back available for the Panoram no. 1, and to use a digital point and shoot to calculate a location is tricky because of the nature of the Panoram lens. Therefore, this modification would not provide solid information.
And so we shoot the image, I develop the film in my makeshift darkroom, scan it and print it. David does the calculations on the scanned file and the results combined with a qualitative assessment allows for resolutions for the next camera position.






DAY 3

July 25 2008 13:51 - 14:50

sunny and clear. wind
location 2
photo-point is about 3 m behind location 1. East (1m) and north of large rectangular sitting rock
1327 mt 12 U 0287997 5437951 6 mt. accuracy
bearing: 180 degrees
image no. 001
fast shutter
tmax 100 120mm
height to camera top 113 cm (approx. waist level of an average height male)

Modifications:
tilt down (cut off mtn tops see images 002, 003)
move back (north) 1 m. (001, pictured here)
Qualitative assessment:
foreground is too small
the angle at the edge of the lake looks too small (west side)
Options/Actions:
move camera back (north)









DAY 2

July 24 2008 15:30 - 16:53

calm, sunny, light cloud
location 1
photo point is slightly to the east and in front of obvious large rectangular sitting rock
elev 1328m 12U 0287888 5437947 5 mt accuracy
180 degrees
image 001
slow shutter
tmax 100 120mm
height to lens centre 107 cm

Qualitative Assessment:
too little foreground
Distant ridglines match (right to left is good) 
Options/Actions:
tile camera down
move back


DAY 1
July 23, 2008

Early 1900s panoram no. 1 
Riggall Photography (Bert Riggall)
image 120 mm
before the hotel. 
after the dance hall was built
before the dance hall burnt down

THE PLEASURE IN A GOOD VIEW

September to November 2007 

During a residency I participated in at the Banff Centre in the fall of 2007, "walking and art", I began to investigate early 20th century postcards from the popular Lake Louise area. Exploring the possibility of returning to the exact location of the historical postcard, this work reports back my experience to the viewer as a hybrid installation, performance, and an archive (made up of photographs, text, video and field notes), to converse with the history of landscape art in the 20th century.

My recent works investigate a small number of archival images as a way to slow down and elaborate on understandings and misunderstandings of place and representation (Sekula 1981). Recent writing about art argues that better understandings of place emerge from an engagement with both the visible and things that remain invisible (Dean and Millar 2005). I am interested in intangible aspects of experience of place as emphasized in the journey to repeat a photograph.

My work is in direct conversation with art that emphasizes interaction with and experience of place, mixing landscape art and performance. I orient my journey to return to past positions in the landscape using repeat photography as an embodied practice and a performative work. Ultimately this struggle indicates a lack, things not found in the contemporary repeat photograph in comparison with the historical photograph structure the work.












FINDING AID


In December 2006, I installed my work, "Finding Aid" in the University of Victoria, Visual Arts Building, Main Gallery. The work, part installation, part archival environment, and part performance, is my investigation into representations of space and place in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Specifically I have taken a journey with three historical archival photographs to try to return to the original sites, to re-take the same view with my camera, and then to replicate printing the photograph. As I repeat the photographs, I produce my own account of the journey. This journey - represented in photographs, texts, video and drawings - make up the archive.


"Finding Aid" is a performance piece as I spent a week in the gallery as the archivist. The archiving is an ongoing process and the gallery site gave me a specific time and place to work towards cataloguing and organizing and adding to the existing framework. At the same time it gave me the chance to talk with visitors to the gallery. As such, I invited my friends and colleagues to join me in the gallery during gallery hours.