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Camera Obscura

mumok mini

The world is upside down! Make your own camera obscura and discover the basic principle of photography.

What you need:

  • 1 empty toilet paper roll
  • 1 piece of black clay paper, 10 x 15 cm
  • 1 piece of baking paper, 12 x 12 cm
  • 1 piece of aluminum foil, 12 x 12 cm
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 thicker needle
  • adhesive tape

Camera Obscura means "dark chamber." It was the first precursor of photography and initially a walk-in, darkened room with a small hole in the wall. The rays of light that fell through this opening from outside created an image on the opposite interior wall of what could be seen outside—but upside down and mirrored. The chamber initially served as a drawing aid for artists, allowing them to trace the resulting image. Later, the chamber became a much smaller box: the photo camera.

Now it's your turn!

Put the aluminum foil over one end of the toilet paper roll and fix it with tape. Make sure that the foil is halfway smooth and taut. Now poke a hole in the aluminum foil with a needle, preferably in the middle. Now grab the black paper. Roll it up so that it fits into the toilet paper roll and darkens everything inside. Once you know how far to roll the paper, take it and tape both ends. Now stretch the baking paper over one open end of the black paper roll. Use the rubber band as an aid so that nothing slips. If the baking paper seems very "stubborn," you can cut the sides of it a little, so that it fits more easily to the curve. Tape the baking paper in place and remove the elastic. Again, make sure the surface is well stretched. Now push the black roll, baking paper side first, into the toilet paper roll. Be careful, because you don’t want too much to slip during this action. This is where your patience is called for. Tip: take a deep breath in between.

Hooray, your pinhole camera is ready! Now it’s time to try it out. Either darken the room and place a bright light source, for example a lamp or a candle, in the room; or, if the weather is nice, stand directly by the window or go outside. Close one eye tightly and look with the other through the open side of the tube at the baking paper inside. Point the tube at the light source and observe what happens—you see: the world turns upside down.