At 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning in May, sweat is sliding down Al Wildey’s face in a pitch-black cargo trailer parked on some railroad tracks.
He inches through the trailer’s cramped 6-by-10-foot quarters getting into position and squinting at the front wall of the dark interior.
Once his eyes adjust to the darkness after coming in from the sunny day outside, the image comes bright and tack sharp on a Plexiglas sheet hanging in the trailer: a circular upside-down image of several curvy utility poles in a parking lot, with a residence hall in the background.
This is what it feels like to be inside of a camera. A camera obscura, to be precise. Wildey, chairman of CMU’s art department, has built this camera obscura – one of the oldest known forms of human-created image – to teach his students about photography’s beginnings. The camera obscura, Latin for “darkened chamber,” is essentially a pinhole in a darkened box that projects an inverted image on whatever is in front of it.