Giant Camera Showcases Midwest Landscape

A repurposed shipping container on wheels traversed the Great Lakes region last fall, photographing the beauty and grit of the Midwest. Now, those stunning prints are on display at the DePaul Art Museum (DPAM) through Aug. 9 in “Liminal Infrastructure.” The artists behind the work—Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen and Tristan Duke—are part of the Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio, whose projects are inspired by an earlier era of photography. According to DPAM Assistant Curator Greg Harris, “The Liminal Camera breaks down the photographic process to its most basic and raw elements. It makes people step back and think about how photographs originally came into the world, and that is really important in a time when our lives are inundated and saturated with digital images.”

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A diagram of the Liminal Camera reveals its inner workings.

As with old-fashioned camera obscuras, the precursor to the modern camera, the large-scale prints were created when light passed through a hole in the side of the pitch-black container, projecting the external scene upside down on the truck’s inner wall. Visitors were invited inside the camera to witness this process during the Chicago Humanities Festival last fall. Climbing up steep steps, visitors entered the camera through a light-tight revolving door reminiscent of a pneumatic tube. Once inside, the artists explained how the camera worked and demonstrated the process, noting that the camera also doubles as a darkroom.

Visitors check out the exhibition during the opening reception in May.

Visitors discuss a photograph during the opening reception in May.

With solar panels on its roof, the liminal camera collects energy from the sun as it rumbles across America. Resource allotment and allocation are among the topics that interest the artists, as the introduction to the exhibition notes: “Chicago, which sits at the intersection of numerous waterways, railways and highways, is a significant node in the production of goods and the movement of raw materials, silver and water among them … The photographs that the Optics Division made in and around Chicago further complicate the myth of the United States as a vast nation, rich with boundless natural resources.”

Guests mingle during the "Liminal Infrastructure" opening reception.

Guests mingle during the “Liminal Infrastructure” opening reception.

Visit DPAM before Aug. 9 to experience these sweeping photographs in person.

“Liminal Infrastructure” is presented in collaboration with the Chicago Humanities Festival.

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