Some Assembly Required: Meghan Duda's Trailer Obscura

This series focuses on those who take making of pictures a step or two further, creating their own photographic tools.

Trailer Obscura

Meghan Duda, Fargo, ND

While attending architecture school, Meghan Duda found herself inside a room in an 18th century Swiss villa. Heavy curtains darkened the room except for a small opening in the curtain facing the street. “Suddenly I found myself inside a camera.” She says. Later, while pursuing an MFA in photography, she wanted to give her students that same sense of discovery. Duda opted for a portable camera obscura that she could bring it to the three schools where she taught—thus, the Trailer Obscura was born.

Duda first experimented with the trailer by mounting some stitched-together photo paper on the back wall and exposing the image for the duration of her hour-and-a-half commute. In 2010, she spent 72 hours converting a 5 x 8 foot enclosed trailer into a pinhole camera. She installed a small door on the exterior wall to serve as a shutter, behind which is a steel plate with a 1/16 inch hole drilled in the center for the pinhole. The most challenging part of construction was the design of a vestibule that would allow Duda to enter the camera without exposing the film. The Trailer Obscura allows for images as large as 4 x 6 feet, but so far Duda has only produced images at 4 x 4 ½ feet.

With this camera on wheels, Duda marries process with product, making exposures while driving. Duda tows the camera behind her car along the highways and back roads of North Dakota. The pinhole renders an image across a grid of 24 letter size sheets of silver gelatin paper. The resulting images are impressions of landscape, embracing atmosphere and time in their tonal range that can be a smooth transition of gray to white or a sharp shift from white to black.

Trailer Obscura [012]. Friday, July 4, 2014 around 7:30pm. Cloudy with some sun, summer rain clouds in the distance. Driving west on Becker County [MN] 4 / Clay County [MN] 10 on the way home from Don’s 4h of July gathering. Varying terrain, traveling through the edge of lakes country into the Red River Valley. Exposure to the north lasting 13 minutes, ended when the landscape flatted out. Little direct sunlight, hidden by distant rain clouds.

View more of Duda’s work on her website.

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