George Eastman House, Rochester, New York
October 18, 1997
**UPDATE** On September 20, 2003 we visited Eastman House and are sorry to report that the through-the-wall camera obscura and all the camera obscura equipment were no longer on display. Sadly Eastman House has put all the wonderful photographic equipment in storage and installed a gift shop and cafe where the galleries were. It is a very nice cafe and gift shop but it is a tragedy that a collection of this importance is hidden from the world.

In October, 1997 we attended Photo History X, The Tenth Triennial Symposium on the History of Photography sponsored by The Photographic Historical Society in cooperation with the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. We have been to a number of these conferences which are held every three years. We always enjoy the conferences and found this one to have an exceptionally interesting group of presentations.

We also enjoy visits to Eastman House, the truly spectacular home of George Eastman, one of our favorite museums. We have not visited for several years and looked forward to seeing the extension that we knew had been added. As always we found much to see and enjoy but we were disappointed to find that the emphasis is now on temporary exhibits of modern material and very little of the wonderful vintage material is on display.

We were surprised to discover a simple "through the wall" camera obscura in the gallery that shows the development of the camera.The sign on the right is next to the entrance to the gallery and faces a wall of windows into the garden. The lens of the camera is an opening into the gallery with an actual lens mounted in it.

When you walk into the gallery there is a small alcove on your left that is lined with dark material. The picture below left shows it by flash and below right shows it with no flash. They were taken from the same position so you can see the lens in the wall and the white fabric screen that hangs in front of it. The lens projects an upside down image of the hallway with a sculpture and the window to the garden beyond. This is a very simple type of camera obscura.

In the gallery we saw some very fine examples of portable camera obscuras. On the left is the lens and mirror box on the top of a beautiful wooden drawing camera.

When we first walked into the gallery we were shocked to see prints of early camera obscuras stuck to the wall with pins. A closer look showed them to be well made copy images. The gallery covered the development of the camera from the camera obscura to digital imaging. Much of the supporting printed material, images, and advertising was copy prints. We understand the need to protect fragile originals but would have liked clear labels to identify the copies.

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