Saturday, August 09, 2008

Abelardo Morell

Years ago I accompanied my ex to a conference in San Diego. He would have to spend two days in a hotel conference room while I knocked around San Diego by myself. The first day I went to the zoo, of course, and although the weather was cool, I had a lovely time photographing and sketching the animals.

The second day I wandered around Balboa Park going from one museum to another. One of the museums I went to was the Museum of Photographic Arts and they were featuring the work of Abelardo Morell, a photographer born in Cuba. If I recall this was at least ten years ago and Morell had a lovely Alice in Wonderland exhibit going on. The photographs were charming. Here's one near and dear to my heart:

The Mock Turtle's Story, 1998, by Abelardo Morell

As charming as these Alice pictures were my real attention was caught by his camera obscura photographs. He turns an entire room into a camera by selecting one with a view he's interested in, places black tape over the windows leaving one 3/8 inch hole which provides light for the picture, focuses the lens outside the window, stops down the maximum depth of field, opens the shutter and leaves for about eight hours. The result is the view is shown projected onto the wall, but upside down in true camera obscura style. The same principles are used to make pinhole cameras. When I took my photographer class in high school we learned to make and use a pinhole camera and I took several interesting pictures with it.

I was fortunate enough to purchase the print below at the museum in San Diego, now bent and yellow around the edges. It's still in good shape, and I'm finally going to have it framed. I say I'm fortunate because I haven't been able to locate another one anywhere.

Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room, 1996, by Abelardo Morell

I used to have this picture in my office and it was always a pleasure to see people's reactions to it. Inevitably, most people would blow right past it, but if they were repeat visitors eventually they would be arrested by this image. No one had any problems recognizing the New York city skyline, but they couldn't figure it out and would stand there staring at it. One of the eeriest things about this image is you are looking at Manhattan during the day, but there's no traffic on the streets. This is because the exposure time is about eight hours and anything moving in the picture will not show up.

If you want to see more of Mr. Morell here's a website. His photographs of ordinary household objects are also wonderful such as falling coins, spoons and pictures in his house.

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