Pandemic portraits through a pinhole: Brazilian photographers capture lockdown with camera obscura

Staff and agencies
EPA/Pedro Rocha

It can be said that the history of photography is directly related to the point of view of a window, as it was from the window of a home in the French countryside that, in 1826, Niepce took history’s first ever photograph – requiring some 8 hours of exposure.

Beyond photography and throughout the history of art, the window as a point of view is a recurring motif among painters, portraitists, filmmakers, and visual artists in general. From Young Woman at the Window, by Salvador Dali, to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Amid the global confinements imposed by Covid-19, contemporary artists are finding renewed significance and meaning in these windows that are so common in visual art. Windows have started to represent the border between the outside and the inside world, between society and solitude, between freedom and confinement.

Brazilian photographer Bruno Alencastro, keen to illustrate the strange times that the world is living through during lockdown, turned to the past and settled on the idea of the “camera obscura”, or “dark chamber”.

In other words, a pinhole image, an optical phenomenon where a scene on the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole as an inverted image. Inspired by this basic photographic concept, Alencastro completely sealed his apartment off from any light source, and managed to project the outside image into his living room.

With the first image done, and as producing other images by himself would not be possible, he invited other photographers who agreed to transform their homes into large-format pinhole cameras, and captured their lives in times of quarantine, confinement and lockdown.


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