Abelardo Morell – Camera obscura’s modern master

Meet Abelardo Morell

While our recent article on camera obscura may have seemed like it was explaining something from ancient times, the method is still very much used today and can produce some stunning images.

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Manhattan, New York

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Boston

Perhaps the leading proponent of modern camera obscura is the Cuban-born photographer Abelardo Morell. He created his first images with the method in his own living room back in 1991 and has utilised it in many projects since, including his Two Views of Philadelphia exhibition that recently closed at the city’s Fabric Workshop and Museum.

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Manhattan, New York

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Manhattan, New York

If you are not familiar with camera obscura, it is really the precursor to modern photography and works by drawing light through a pinhole into a dark chamber or room. Typically a mirror is used to reflect the light onto a flat surface such as a wall.

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Umbria, Italy

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Umbria, Italy

Morell uses a prism to turn the image that comes through the right way up and then uses a large-format camera to capture the picture. In the early days this work took around five to ten hours to complete and was in black and white, but Morell now uses a full colour digital sensor that has reduced the exposure time down to just a few minutes.

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Brooklyn Bridge

(c) ABELARDO MORELL, Brooklyn Bridge

For Morell, camera obcura is the ability to turn an entire room into a camera. Since his first project 23 years ago, he has used the method across the world with his 2010 collection of images from the American West being amongst his most popular.