2018 - present
Camera Illumina grew out of my exploration of what it means to live in a reciprocal relationship with the land. I first encountered this notion in the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by the Potowatami botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer. She describes a way of being that is “rooted in intimacy with a local landscape where the land itself is the teacher”. Reading this made me rethink my relationship to my home, the ancestral land of the Stó:lō people. As I considered this broad theme, the act of paying attention emerged as a starting point for how to be in a reciprocal relationship with the land. A more specific idea arrived one beautiful fall day when the memory of looking through a camera obscura popped into my head. I took this memory as a prompting, and decided to see where it would lead me. That very afternoon I built my first camera obscura out of cardboard, duct tape and a magnifying lens.
The technology of the camera obscura (meaning dark chamber) dates back to 4th century China. The basic structure of this type of camera is a dark room with a little hole in the wall; the light rays from the outside enter through the tiny hole and project the view upside down onto an interior wall. Adding a lens over top of the hole sharpens the image and using a mirror projects the image down onto a table as the illustration shows. This ancient concept was further developed over many centuries and was used by painters, mathematicians and scientists. I am grateful for the sharing of this knowledge, a creative inheritance that we can all participate in.
Using this special camera that doesn’t take a picture, I have spent the last 3 years watching and experiencing the seasonal changes in local ravines and wetlands. Time spent looking through the Camera Illumina has served to focus my attention and slow me down. In moments of stillness while looking in the camera, I would always notice the gentle movement of the trees in the image. It dawned on me that the land was constantly moving; I just wasn’t paying attention. It is this understanding of the land as alive that led me to call this a Camera Illumina.
These videos and images were made by putting a regular digital camera inside the Camera Illumina to capture the projection. They are reminders of the experience of slowing down and noticing.
The Re: podcast