May 14 2022 / 10:30am - 11:30am

Pinhole camera experimentation, research,  installations, and the origins of photography.
Donald Lawrence will be presenting an artist talk using images and small artifacts, as he shares about his ongoing research + development for his Floating Camera Obscura projects.

Free Event, everyone is welcome. Donations are gratefully accepted.
Attend in-person at CVAG or by live-stream.
Zoom link:

Donald Lawrence | Artist Statement

In the waters surrounding Pelxqikw and K`ómoks ­– Goose Spit and Comox ­­­­– participants will enter a floating, tent-like structure by kayak or other small watercraft, passing through an array of baleen-like flaps designed to keep the light out. Having paddled from shore, the participants will find themselves inside a small optical theatre, with an image of the surrounding landscape cast into the space by way of a simple lens elevated a few feet above the water at the narrow end of the darkened space. The waterborne participants are inside a floating camera obscura.

Latin for “dark room” a camera obscura is an optical phenomenon and apparatus in which light is admitted through a lens or open aperture, to project an image inside of what lies outside, of whatever the apparatus is looking towards. As with Coastal Camera Obscura III, the outside world may be projected as an image on a screen or might be cast onto a table or some other surface. Cameras obscura are the forerunner of photography, film and other forms of image projection, with a long history across the realms of art and science in ancient Greece, China, the Islamic world and early modern Europe. In the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, cameras obscura became popular as walk-in pavilion-like structures at seaside and other settings.

Coastal Camera Obscura III takes the experience of such a structure and puts it afloat on the sea. Its large, luminous projection of the surrounding landscape will providing a contemplative space, with its view moving gently as the structure bobs on the water and shifting as the structure swings on its anchor or drifts with the current. Launched and sited in the waters adjacent to Pelxqikw, Coastal Camera Obscura III will be a locus for activities encouraging broad-ranging audiences to consider histories of the surrounding lands and of the interplay between art and science, learning and play, while engaging in a micro-adventure at the same time.

To be realized in 2023, Coastal Camera Obscura III builds upon two earlier projects, realized in St. John’s in 2014 and in Vancouver in 2017 – all sharing the common structure of a fabric, tent-like enclosure suspended within a surrounding, floating wooden framework.  The new structure will have a lighter framework and dark tent, to be more nimble on the water and with the intent of being used at multiple points along the inner coast of Vancouver Island and in the Atlantic provinces.

This event is part of the RETURN TO WATER FESTIVAL – a series of arts-based events and presentations that bring the community together to explore issues related to perceptions of water, use of water, the human relationship to water, the climate’s effect on water, and the concept of water as a “living entity”. From May 12 – 14, 2022, daily events will instigate interdisciplinary and cross-cultural considerations of water and its significance through visual art, photography, video, sound, interactive media, texts, performance, music, dance, and song.

Image: Donald Lawrence, Coastal Camera Obscura, pencil and graphite on paper, 2016.