Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Please note: this page will be altered soon as part of a site-wide redesign.

**New links 9/07 for eBay store selling and woodworker offering modern replica camera obscuras!

Type "camera obscura" in the subject box of a search engine like Goggle and you can get more than 2,000,000 web pages. We are happy to note that our site is very high or first in the list on many search engines. A number of these are music related (a band, a record company), some will be related to a film criticism journal, others to several photography galleries and dealers, a number to sites with access for the blind, and a few that include the phrase for no particular reason we understand. Even after adding qualifiers such as "lens" to remove some these sites there are still thousands that relate to the optical instrument.

Below are a few of the sites that we have found interesting. Sites come and go but all of these were active when tested on November 9, 2006. Please send an e-mail if you find a dead link or if you can suggest additional links.

Theory and history of the camera obscura

  • The Sky In A Room is an English language page on an interesting Italian science site that explains how to turn your bedroom into a camera obscura.
  • Vermeer's Camera, a book by Philip Steadman, Oxford University Press, 200l includes reconstructions and 3D models of Vermeer's rooms to support the theory that Vermeer used a camera obscura.
  • The Engines of Our Ingenuity lecture by John H. Lienhard on the Camera Obscura
  • A page The Camera Obscura: Aristotle to Zahn is part of an extensive web site called Adventures in CyberSound - A PhD project by Dr. Russell Naughton, RMIT University - Melbourne, Australia. His PhD was granted in 1999 and the page has been moved to a new address. The page is filled with information, pictures, timelines, and links to other sources.
  • The Complete History of the Discovery of Cinematography Researched, compiled and written, by Paul T. Burns includes a section on the camera obscura.
  • "Dark Wonder" and article on the camera obscura from Summer 2001 CIRCA Art Magazine by Tanya Kiang includes several illustrations from our collection.
  • Wikipedia entry on "Camera Obscura"
  • Paleo-camera Theory the case for the naturally occurring camera obscura in the Paleolithic period.

Sites on operating camera obscuras

We have visiting some, but not all of these camera obscuras. Please send links or reports of additional operating locations that you find. Links to web pages with contact information have been selected when possible since some have irregular or seasonal open times. It is always best to call ahead to be sure the location is open.

Lists of Operating Camera Obscuras (Both are incomplete but helpful)

  • Camera Obscuras Today The National Museum of Photography, Film; & Television, Bradford, England lists many of the operating camera obscuras in Britain with addresses and phone numbers.
  • The Foredown Tower web site, a part of the Brighten & Hove City Museum site, includes information on the camera obscura in the tower as well as a "What is a camera obscura" page and several pages of locations of camera obscura in the UK, Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, as well as temporary and lost camera obscuras.

US Camera Obscuras:

Great Britain Camera Obscuras:

Camera Obscuras in the rest of the world:

Traveling and Temporary Camera Obscuras:

Contemporary Sales of Working Camera Obscuras

  • **New link 9/07 SwanCrafted is the web site of a custom woodworker. He shows an example of a handheld camera obscura that he can make to order. He has also made a tent camera obscura and plans to add a picture to his site.
  • **New link 4/07 Camera Obscura/Lucida Shop is an eBay store selling replica, working camera obscura and mirror style camera lucida instruments. We have not seen or tested the instruments but the photographs look very promising.
  • The Star Camera Company produces custom made cameras and equipment for antique photographic processes. Their web site does not show a box camera obscura but they have made them and will accept commissions for such a project.
  • **Note If you have working camera obscuras for sale please send us contact information and we will post it here.

Camera Obscura Optics and Design

  • American Science & Surplus sells surplus lenses and may have the lenses needed for small camera obscuras. They also have a wide selection of experimental and fun stuff.
  • Edmund Scientific is worth an inquiry for lenses and other optical supplies.
  • **New link 11/06 George Keene, an expert in optical systems and designer of high end camera obscuras, now has a web site! He is one of Jack's heroes and designer of Charles Schwartz magnificent private camera obscura in New York City and the new camera obscura at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. We suggest that anyone looking for top quality, professional camera obscura design contact George Keene.
  • David Sinden (**Note We are sad to report that David Sinden died on Monday, 29 August 2005.) of Tyne & Wear, England made lenses and mirrors for many of the first class modern camera obscuras including The Foredown Tower at Hove, England, The Torre Tavira; Cadiz, Spain, Havana, Cuba; Castle of St. George, Lisbon, Portugal; Palacio de Villavicencio, Jerez, Spain. We have often recommended him to those who inquire about professional grade camera obscure lenses.

Contemporary Artists Using the Camera Obscura

  • We are absolutely enchanted by the photographs of Abelardo Morell. He photographs rooms that he has transformed into camera obscuras.The interior of the room is overlaid with the upside down projection of the world outside to make a new, magical whole. Examples of his camera obscura rooms can be seen on his web site, abelardo morell - photographs. Read an introduction to his book wonderful book Camera Obscura published by Warner Books.
  • Vera Lutter, a German artist also turns rooms into camera obscuras. Unlike Morell who photographs the projected image she places large sheets of photosensitive paper on the wall of the room and exposes and develops very large paper negatives of the outside world. Several examples of her work can be seen on the artnet site.
  • Jim Southerland is an artist who uses a "home-made" camera obscura to combine oils over camera obscura monoprints (monotypes). A book of his work MY CAMERA OBSCURA: 25+ YEARS by James D. Southerland, Catawba Publishing Company is available on line from Catawba Publishing Company.
    An article about Jim's camera obscura monoprints can be found on the World Printmakers website.

Articles and Web Sites about Our Tent Camera Obscura, The Magic Mirror of Life

  • The December 2002 issues of Baltimore Magazine included an article, I am a camera (obscura) about the Magic Mirror of Life (note this was before our successful Atkins diet!)
  • On June 30, the day we were interviewed for the Baltimore Magazine article, Mike Lee, a friend and former student photographed the tent and included pictures in his curiousLee web log.

The Camera Obscura in Literature and Film

  • The camera obscura in the Sunday comics - The April 17, 2005 comic strip One Big Happy by Rick Detorie is a history of photography as understood by Joe, the boy in the comic strip's family. The first frame shows an artist drawing in a camera obscura room. The landscape projected on the wall is rectangular and right-side-up rather than round and upside-down. We sent Mr. Detorie a fan letter to tell him how much we enjoyed the strip but pointed out the orientation problem with the image. He was gracious in granting us permission to post a "corrected" version on this site.
  • Addicted to Love - This romantic comedy with Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan is about two jilted lovers who seek revenge. It got mixed reviews but we thought it was very interesting because of the use of a camera obscura as both a device and a metaphor for spying on the faithless pair. A number of web sites review the movie and discuss the camera obscura device. Most of them do not point out that the images projected by the supposed camera obscura are too large, bright, and clear to be real. Although it seems the movie prop camera obscura did work the images on the wall were superimposed from actual film. Having photographed in camera obscura interiors we understand the necessity for this approach.
  • The wonderful 1946 British movie Stairway to Heaven (US title) or A Matter of Life and Death (British title) features a scene inside a camera obscura. It is a fantasy story of a British flyer, played by David Nevin, who refuses to die after falling in love with an American WAC during his last moments of life. A beautifully conceived scene in a camera obscura between the WAC and an English doctor is short but effective. If you can find it on video tape or in a revival of old movies it is a delight on many levels.
  • One of the stories on Rod Serling's 1970s TV series Night Gallery is called Camera Obscura. It is about a heartless moneylender played by René Auberjonois who gets his just desserts with the help of a camera obscura. In fact the story features not one but two. After seeing this you may be less eager to visit a camera obscura. This episode is on Volume Two of the Columbia House Night Gallery series. There is a reference to it on this episode guide. I do not know if the video is still available to Columbia House members but we were able to buy it on
  • A radio drama from the late 40s, Quiet Please included an episode called Camera Obscura that centers around the Santa Monica camera obscura when it was still a green frame building on the beach. This episode has been released as an audio cassette SFH-423 available from the Radio Showcase web site.
  • The Secrets of the Camera Obscura, a Novella by David Knowles. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, California, 1994 - A strange mystery set in a camera obscura.
  • The Underground Man by Mick Jackson, Penguin, 1998, is a novel about a real 19th century eccentric, The Duke of Portland. In one of the later chapters of the book he visits the camera obscura in Edinburgh. Note that there are several unrelated books with the same title.
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Dutton, 1999, is a novel about a young girl who works as a maid in the household of the painter Vermeer. The novel includes a scene with a camera obscura. This is a delightful book and well worth reading.

    In 2003 a movie based on the book was released. The movie has much of the atmosphere and sense of time and place of the book. We were somewhat disappointed in the camera obscura sequence since the instrument shown did not have the right feel for the period. The lens was clearly a 19th century camera lens and the craftsmanship in the construction of the box does not appear to be from the 17th century. A cabinet style camera obscura as described by Philip Steadman in Vermeer's Camera would have made for a much more dramatic device. This 2001 book was published after the novel but its ground breaking theories might have been available before the film was made. In spite of these reservation it is a beautiful movie not to be missed.
  • Camera Obscura, by Lloyd Rose is a novel in the ongoing series about the time traveler Doctor Who. It was published by BBC Books in 2002. Although we are avid science fiction fans we had never read any of the Doctor Who novels although we enjoy the TV series. The cover shows a seaside pier with a camera obscura building at the end but this is not the kind of camera obscura featured. We were both delighted and disappointed in the passages in the camera obscura. The location was in the Crystal Palace after it had become an entertainment arcade. We are currently researching the camera obscura located there and enjoyed the speculation that this might be it. We were disappointed that the device was not actually a camera obscura but a time travel device of some kind.

    A review of the novel is featured on a fan web site, Who Central.

A short list of publications on the camera obscura:

  • The Camera Obscura, A Chronicle, by John H. Hammond, Adam Hilger Ltd, Bristol, England, 1981 (This book, the bible of camera obscura texts, is out of print but appears from time to time on out-of-print book lists such as
  • The Camera Obscura and Greenwich, by Pip Brennan, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich England, 1994
  • Pocket Guide to Camera Obscuras of Britain and the World, Mike Fiest, Hove Borough Council, 1995. I have had several e-mail messages from people looking for this booklet. It is available by mail:
      Foredown Tower Countryside Centre
      Foredown Road
      East Sussex
      BN41 2EW
      United Kingdom
      Tel: + 44 (0)1273 292092
  • Camera Obscuras A Short History, Landmark Press, 1988
  • Amateur Telescope Making  vol. 3 by Albert G. Ingalls, 1996 Willmann-Bell, Inc. This book has a short chapter on making a camera obscura. A diagram of a roof mounted camera obscura in included. This three volume set has been in several editions since it was first published in the 1920s. Be aware that in earlier editions this chapter was in one of the other volumes.
  • Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters by David Hockney, Thames and Hudson, 2001. Since an earlier magazine article and several interviews with Hockney about his "discovery" of the use of optical instruments by artists of the past, we have seen an increase in interest in the subject. We appreciate Mr. Hockney for bringing these possibilities to the attention of so many but wonder at the the idea that something discussed in the literature of art for hundreds of years should be seen as a "new concept". Perhaps it is his contention that "everyone" used optical aids that is new and suspect. A web site on a BBC documentary on Hockney includes movie clips.

Magic Mirror of Life Home Page and Site Map

What is a camera obscura?

Why we created this site

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

Links and a Bibliography < You are here

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
The Camera Obscura at War
Advertising flyer for a Camera Obscura
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
Melville Garden Camera Obscura
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
Lost European 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 9/2007