Camera Obscura, Mitchell Park, Greenport, New York
August 3, 2007

* Added 8/2007

Ever since our 1998 visit to John Serkin in Greenport we have looked forward to the opening of a permanent camera obscura there. We learned, more than a year ago, that it was operating and were eager to make the trip. The search for a happy conjunction of a break in our schedule and a good weather forecast finally happened and we drove to Long Island on Thursday and on to Greenport on Friday, August 3rd. A flyer available at the camera obscura lists the hours of operation as "daily when the sun shines in July & August and weekends the rest of the year as weather permits. VIEWING IS BEST WHEN DAYLIGHT IS STRONGEST".

We were surprised to find that there was no prominent signage to identify the camera obscura but we did recognize it in the waterfront park from pictures on the internet. Even though the only identification was a mounted poster on the ground by the door there was a steady stream of visitors to see the presentation.

The lens assemble projects a bright clear picture of the park and waterfront and the movements of the turret and table are smoothly controlled by a box equipped with a joy stick. We found it to be an excellent and well designed instrument.

We were lucky to make contact with Paula Mauro, a freelance radio producer and member of the camera obscura committee. She was very helpful during our visit and assures us that she will keep us informed about progress in promoting the camera obscura.

Mitchell Park also has a vintage carrousel in a round glass building. This along with the camera obscura and the marina filled with sailing craft make Greenport a wonderful warm weather destination.


Looking up into the Lens Assembly

The Carrousel Building

November 2004 Wired Magazine discusses the design and construction of the camera obscura by the Sharples Holden Pasquarelli architectural firm. The camera obscura is called "the first building to be 100 percent digitally designed and computer fabricated."

John Serkin's Portable Camera Obscura - Greenport, New York
July 4, 1998

Through the internet we made contact with John Serkin of Greenport, Long Island. He sent us photographs and clippings of a portable camera obscura he has constructed. On the weekend of July 4th, 1998 we traveled to Long Island to visit and photograph his very successful project.

On the right, John Serkin stands by the doorway of his prototype camera obscura. The plywood structure, held together with bolts and latches, can be assembled in about an hour. A box on the top holds lens and mirror to project the image down to a 47" round, white table. We visited on July 4th, a bright day, and saw a beautiful image of the water and passing boat traffic.

The prototype structure helped John convince the Greenport Board of Trustees to fund a permanent camera obscura building in the waterfront park the city is planning. It is projected to be ready in the summer of 1999.* see update above


On the right is a close view of the mirror and lens that sits on the top of the camera obscura. For the prototype John, assisted by his friend Myron Levitsky, selected a lens from a surplus catalogue that projects an incredibly sharp image. The permanent camera obscura will have custom-made optics.

In an interview John explained how the project grew out of a chance encounter about ten years ago with the Giant Camera Obscura at Cliff House in San Francisco. His fascination with the history and technology of the camera obscura led him to research and build this prototype and win approval for the more ambitious plan to build a permanent site in the village park. The portable camera obscura was shown at a local festival and the comments in the visitor's book are very reminiscent of the wonder and enjoyment that run through 19th century accounts of camera obscura rooms.

John moved away from Greenport before the permanent camera obscura was built but the excellent instrument is a tribute to his vision.

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What is a camera obscura?

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications

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Modified 8/2007