Inspired

Taking its name from the Latin words for ‘dark room’, the principles of the camera obscura date back to 500 BC in China and a century later in Europe

Ed Swan
Independent product designer


Taking its name from the Latin words for ‘dark room’, the principles of the camera obscura date back to 500 BC in China and a century later in Europe, when the Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that a small hole in one wall of a darkened room would project an inverted image of the outside world on to the opposite wall.

The term ‘camera obscura’, however, was not coined until 1600 by Johannes Kepler, following the incorporation of simple lenses. Such devices were commonly used up until the 19th century by painters, who used portable versions to trace projected images – this was the only way to store such an image before the first photographs were taken in 1926.

Inspired by the simplicity of the device, my interest has been to combine these optical principles with an innovative use of materials to produce illusionary projections in a series of projects.

After producing Obscure View, a rotating screen bringing the outside in (now featured in Tom Dixon’s Tokyo Hipster’s club), and NoTree House, an optics-filled tree house for urban environments, the new 1:10 and 1:8 pendant lights require close inspection. The configuration of eight or ten lenses around one light source – a standard incandescent light bulb – projects images on the outer light shade, giving seemingly complex results from a simple, ancient technique. The multiple light bulb images are transmitted inversely on to a black satin or opal white acrylic surface, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior.

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