Saturday, September 15, 2007

Toowoomba Camera Obscura

Glen Rees. Camera Obscura Building, Picnic Point, Toowoomba, Queensland. 1995. National Library of Australia

I am reading The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft by Anne Friedberg at the moment. I am really enjoying it. It begins with an account of Renaissance perspective and the concept of the window. Then it looks at drawing machines and moves on to a history of the camera obscura, and this is where I am up to at the moment. With reading about the camera obscura I came to realize that one of my earliest experiences of virtual technologies was the camera obscura that was built in my home town, Toowoomba (pictured):

The lens of the Toowoomba Camera Obscura is an achromatic doublet of about 6" diameter with a focal length of about 13' 6" giving a focal ratio of F13. The dished screen is 5 or 6 feet across. It was designed and built by W.M. Lowe at Picnic Point in about 1966. The octagonal building is made of white pine and rotated on 16 industrial castors. It holds about 30 visitors at a time. This camera obscura has now closed down.

On several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s I visited the camera obscura at Picnic Point Toowoomba with my grandmother. I remember sitting in a darkened room as the cylinder wall rotated noisily about us and we were shown scenes from the escarpment outside of the city, treed slopes of the Great Dividing Range and significant buildings below in the ancient crater where Toowoomba is situated.
I will blog a more detailed review of The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft next week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,
I too have fond memories of the Picnic Point Camera Obscura when staying with my aunt who lived in Toowoomba during school holidays in the early 1970's.
"Would you like to see the camera?", asked the little old lady who took your money and operated the device, pulling the cords inside to zoom in and out at targets of interest.
I was facinated with the vibrant colours of the images projected onto the table we all looked down onto to view the realtime image. Best viewing was with clear, sunny skies.
It is a shame it no longe operates today and I wonder what happened to it as I would class it as either a protected site or a national treasure worthy of preservation.
Thanks for having a page of information about it.
Regards, David Palmer