Richard Torchia and John Tuomey: Architectural Optics

  August 2002

Image of the installation and exhibition Architectural Optics by Richard Torchia and John Tuomey at Gallery of Photography Ireland, August 1 – 28 2002.

The Gallery of Photography is turning the world upside down during the month of August. The main gallery has been transformed into a large-scale, walk-in camera, known as a ‘camera obscura’ or ‘darkened chamber’. Step inside the giant camera to experience live pictures of the world magically turned upside down. These views are realtime, full colour images of extraordinary beauty. It is a fascinating experience which will enchant viewers of all ages.

The camera obscura is based on the scientific principle that light passing through an aperture or pinhole into a darkened room will project an inverted image opposite the aperture. Known since ancient times, it was employed by artists such as Canaletto and Vermeer, and it remains the fundamental principle at work in today’s photographic cameras, be they traditional or digital.

This special installation in the Gallery of Photography is the result of a collaboration between John Tuomey (of O’Donnell+Tuomey the architects of the Gallery building), and the American artist Richard Torchia. The collaboration brought together these leading practitioners in a creative dialogue on the subject of the camera obscura and related optical devices. Thus, in addition to the camera, Richard Torchia is exhibiting small scale optical ‘sculptures’, made specifically in response to the various spaces and materials in the Gallery building.

Funded under the Special Projects Initiative of the Arts Council, the collaboration also set out to explore the possibility of constructing a permanent camera obscura in the Gallery of Photography. To this end, the exhibition includes John Tuomey’s drawings and a scale model of such a development. The proposed structure is situated on the roof of the present building and incorporates a camera obscura which would offer the public a fascinating new panorama of the city. In addition, the rooftop development would provide the Gallery of Photography with much needed space to expand and further develop its successful programme of activities, with the provision of rooftop ‘digital lightroom’ facilities to complement the chemical darkroom facilities currently available in the basement of the building.