Inside Out is a reflective name for this exhibition by Canadian photographer, Colin Smith. His exhibition at the Winsor Gallery comprised huge prints made in camera obscura format. Camera obscura is the upside down image displayed in a darkened room with only a small hole in a window cover to allow light in. It’s basically the process of turning a room into one gigantic camera, but without the mirror to invert the image back to us again. This law of optics was known in ancient times.
What makes Smith’s work so interesting is that he has used an airstream trailer (caravan) and old, abandoned buses in some of his images on exhibit. While the inverted image is reflected on the ceiling and walls of the caravan or bus, the scene through the two windows in the caravan or bus is the right way up. One almost feels that one is looking at a television monitor instead of through a window. I am guessing that he covers the windows while waiting for the camera obscura camera to marinate, so to speak and then removes the covers just before the shutter is pressed. The effect is surreal and quite puzzling. The prints are of a size that the viewer feels as if he/she is right there in the location. At first one can’t figure out just where that place is, things look out of place and there is a dizzying sensation while one tries to make sense of the image, a confusing of the senses. You feel as if you are upside down, yet right way up all at the same time. The canola fields display boldly on the ceiling of the caravan, while a grain silo stretches out on the table. While through the windows a beautiful landscape of canola fields and the Rocky Mountains stretch out in the distance.
His other camera obscura work, done in some of the well known hotels in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, were a new take on some very familiar scenery. Although these were “straight” camera obscuras with no window views, they were, nevertheless done on a majestic scale and also engaged the viewer to look through the room in great detail.
All his camera obscura images have a lot of layers and one is really engaged when viewing the images. Initially I had my doubts about attending this exhibition, but I am so glad I went to see it as it has opened the door to some new ideas and techniques.
More of Colin Smith’s work can be seen on his website.
Colin Smith [online]. Available from: http://www.colinsmith.ca/ [Accessed 6 April, 2015]