Camera Obscura - Light On Earth Project

This project made up part of my final year to gain my Bachelor of Arts honours degree in photography from the University of Hertfordshire in 2017. A book being published later.

Between September 2016 and May 2017 I have worked on a project to create a portable camera obscura (dark room), light enough to transport but durable and naturally light tight. After numerous attempts at building my own tent from plastic pond liners etc., I discovered there to be an area of home horticulture that demands portability and light tightness to grow plants in doors without any one knowing. This tent became my portable camera obscura. I didn't want to do anything easy as I think photography has become too easy, I wanted to earn every image I made, so made the image outside reflect, using a lens and 45 degree angled mirror in a periscope fashion, onto the ground within the camera obscura so that I had the added elements of the ground exactly at the point where the photograph was taken. I chose the city of Charleroi in the South of Belgium as my subject matter, what you see in this gallery is a small portion of images made over a period of three days in May 2017.


The 'ghost' metro is a line that was built in the 1980s but never used, the 'All Italia' cocktail lounge, once named the 'Alitalia cocktail lounge' until the lawyers got involved, stands empty, surrounded by a nearby hospitals car park. The Gelateria, a beautiful conversion of an old train carriage was once a thriving business, but now stands empty upturned tables and a rotting wooden terrace. The Du Gouffre coal mine is an older symbol of Charleroi's past, having closed in 1969 it has been ravaged by 'urbex' day trippers over the years. The Solvay theatre with its large bay window, was built in 1938 for the workers at the nearby Solvay chemical works, along with cinema and swimming pool in the same complex but abandoned in 1998. Finally the Charleroi Expo 1960s brutalist architecture, still used for conferences and exhibitions, but also an area frequented by the less fortunate of society.

Some images include items that were present in the area as I felt this gave an additional insight and context to the final image.

Charleroi is a proud city down on its luck since the industry disappeared in the 1970s - 80s, but there is optimism, a thriving biotechnology park and a regenerated town centre will certainly attract people and work back to the area in the coming years.

I have included black and white images to show the camera obscura in place and others are purely to add context to the project.