I have been a keen photographer of the hands-on, messing about in the darkroom all night variety since I was about 12. I still think it’s magical, even though mostly now I use digital cameras. In my teaching I like to introduce students to the basics of photography by having them make a camera, and one of the things I like to stress is that you can make a camera from any light-tight container. Several years ago I conceived the idea of using the boat as a camera (the project title, “navicula obscura” is a back-construction from the the latin “camera obscura” – darkened room) and left it at the back of my mind to germinate.
The simplicity of the science and practice of the camera obscura, and the fact that as a technology it was well known at the date of the construction of the canal, made it seem a good match.
Images captured from the camera will be printed using one of the earliest stable photographic technologies, the gum bichromate print. This is a process which I investigated and gained a certain competence in some fifteen years ago – it was originated in the mid 19th century in France and involves direct contact printing onto a prepared surface treated with a mixture of sensitive salts and pigment, the light fixing the pigment to the surface. Each print is unique, the image quality being manipulated physically in the process of bringing it out, though the process can be repeated many times.
Link: Steve Rayner’s website