Camera Obscura – Artist Statement

Monterey Now! Greg Mettler

Camera Obscura: Annular Perspectives of Monterey County
Press release from the Monterey Musuem of ART 2011

MontereyNOW: Greg Mettler features a multi-media installation, constructed on site in the Museum’s gallery. Mettler, a photographer, videographer and teacher has designed a camera obscura-like environment that uses projected video, rather than a lens, to present a 360 degree perspective of Monterey County. The video, filmed locally by the artist, promises to challenge viewer perceptions by bringing into focus those things one chooses to notice and those one chooses to ignore. The exterior of the camera obscura (Latin for “darkened chamber”) is designed and constructed by Mettler from recycled materials and recalls the weathered exteriors of many local buildings in familiar locations like Fort Ord and Cannery Row. Its interior features a round dish that acts as a viewing screen for the video projected from above and maintains the tradition of the camera obscura. This installation offers a story of diversity and dichotomy of our local surroundings.

The camera obscura was first developed in the 13th century. Early versions were generally small and used a pinhole or a lens to project an inverted image on a flat surface that could be traced to create perfect perspective drawings or view solar eclipses. Later, larger versions were installed in scenic areas to showcase magnificent views and historic settings. These dome shaped structures were equipped with a rotating lens that projected onto a dish in the middle of a darkened room. Patrons could then easily and comfortably watch a panoramic view of the outside surroundings unfold before them.

Greg Mettler says, “I first visited a camera obscura as a child at Ocean Beach in San Francisco near the Cliff House Restaurant. This was before the days of streaming webcams and I was amazed to see real-time projections of the sea and cliffs of Ocean Beach. I think that moment first triggered my fascination with the lens, and how the photographic image encompassed both truth and fiction simultaneously. My child self knew the image to be a true representation of the outside world, yet it was skewed and transformed, giving me a unique perspective of the world, privy only to me, standing in that dark dome-shaped room.”