Donald Lawrence is the Principal Investigator of The Camera Obscura Project, based at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. There he teaches drawing, photography, sculpture and related special topics courses in the Visual Arts BFA program. Lawrence's interest in cameras obscura originated with Dutch-inspired perspective boxes created during his BFA studies at the University of Victoria (1982-1986) and a walk-in, revolving, Panoramic Camera Obscura created at Toronto's York University in 1987 during his MFA studies (1986-1988). More recent projects have seen Lawrence's exploration of cameras obscura take two paths. One of these paths has seen uses of the camera obscura aligned with his interests in the outdoors, the meeting place of urban and wilderness cultures, and his particular interest in sea kayaking. Such projects include the One Eye Folly (2008) and the Kayak/Camera Obscura (a.k.a. Kepler's Klepper, 2011). The other path is represented by such projects as the Tent Camera Obscura (2011) and the Pavilion Camera Obscura (2014). While these latter works do not seek to reproduce historical apparatus they come close to doing so, as a means of gaining an experiential, tactile appreciation of historical cameras obscura and sharing that with others in workshop and public settings.
Created for The Garden Party, an exhibition of temporary outdoor sculptures at York University, the open aperture of the Panoramic Camera Obscura offered visitors an inverted, shifting view of the surrounding campus as they walked the structure's suspended room around a circular track. The camera obscura's structure was a variation of an initial design/model that would have seen participants seated on a chair inside, with the structure rotated by two helpers.
Ice Follies, a biennale exhibition of North Bay's W.K.P. Kennedy Art Gallery, invites artists to create artworks that are inspired by ice fishing huts. One Eye Folly saw a friend's rowboat converted into a camera obscura and fully provisioned ice fishing hut.
A 1960's German folding Klepper kayak, which Donald Lawrence has used on trips to Scotland's Outer Hebrides (1993 and 1996) Maine (1994) and British Columbia, was converted into a floating camera obscura during a residency in Tasmania. there It was included in River Effects, an exhibition component of the biennale festival Ten Days on the Island. An accompanying video, A Camera Obscura on the Tamar, was filmed at locations along the Tamar River.
Based on early nineteenth century models, the Tent Camera Obscura presents a darkened space in which a participant may trace the lens' projected image towards creating a drawing of their surroundings. This first model was created for use during a workshop as part of Animating Public Space Through the Arts, at the University of Coimbra, Portugal.
Created for Eastern Edge’s 2014 Arts Marathon Festival the Quidi Vidi Camera Obscura was a floating kayak-in-kayak-through camera obscura. Constructed in Quidi Vidi the “Gut,” a small historic fishing harbour a mile south of the main harbour in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the camera obscura appeared as a dark structure of oiled canvas buoyed-up by tires, and supported by an exoskeleton lashed together from rough lumber.
Panoramic Camera Obscura, 1987
One Eye Folly, 2008
Kayak/Camera-Obscura (a.k.a. Kepler's Klepper), 2011
Tent Camera Obscura, 2011
Quidi Vidi, 2014
The Camera Obscura Project brings together an international group of artists and other researchers interested in cameras obscura, related optical phenomenon and the meeting places of: art and science, cultural and wilderness settings, learning and play. With funding from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada the Project is based at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, B.C.