Exhibition/Display Details

Camera Obscura by Nilufar Izadi

30 Jul 2013 to 29 Sep 2013

Step inside an enormous Camera Obscura on the Ashmolean forecourt. Photographer Nilufar Izadi combines architecture, physics and art to create camera obscura installations in different forms and locations around the world.

From the Latin; camera for "room" and obscura for "dark", the camera obscura is an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings. If you go into a dark room on a bright day, cover the window and then make a small hole in the screen, you will see on the opposite wall a full colour, moving image of the outside world. But the image is upside down.

This phenomenon is explained by a simple law of physics. Light travels in a straight line. When its rays pass through a small hole they do not scatter but cross. When they hit a flat surface parallel to the hole they reform - upside down.

This law of optics lies behind the camera obscura and all photography. It was known to the ancient Chinese and Greek philosophers and has long been employed by both scientists and artists in their exploration of light and image. In the 16th century the image quality was sharpened by the addition of a convex lens and a mirror to reflect the image down onto a viewing surface. The apparatus then became widely used as a drawing tool and eventually evolved into the photographic camera. Since then the camera obscura has not become redundant but has continued to provide both entertainment and an education in the laws of physics and light.

Nilufar is a London based photographer who creates camera obscura installations for galleries and as private commissions worldwide. She delights in the real life projections inside the camera obscura and has created installations using a bullet hole in war torn Beirut, and has created a series of camera obscura installations using recycled silo tanks. Her first commission was for the Pinhole Resource in New Mexico where she based her structure on the nautilus shell. She creates pinhole workshops and uses the camera obscura as a foundation for the principles of photography. For further information on her projects please visit

The Camera Obscura is open during Museum opening hours:
Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm, and Bank Holiday Monday 10am–6pm.

Admission Free