The Big Picture
This short film takes a look at an artist’s journey to turn an aging warehouse that was about to be demolished into possibly the world’s largest disposable camera. Joel Nicholas Peterson looked at this project as ‘giving the building vision’ for the few days it would still be standing and allowing it to be an observer in relation to other buildings. The city is growing rapidly around the area, which is causing many changes. The project will turn out to be a documentation of a very specific moment in time.
The old building, which has been around for over 100 years has had a number of different owners. It used to be the Vancouver Police Department horse stables and then its parking garage, when they started getting police cars. From then it went on to house a long line of different companies and stores.
Peterson decided to build four giant pinhole cameras to use an ancient photography technique called ‘camera obscura’, which basically consists of only allowing light into the room through a small opening called an aperture. Because light travels in a straight line, the light from the top ends up at the bottom of the image after passing through an aperture. This creates an upside down version of the image.
For his project, Peterson got some huge roles of lithographic film and decided to expose all of it and use the negatives to make giant contact prints. Peterson and his crew had to knock down a few floors and walls to turn smaller units into large rooms and then black out the space to create an ideal pitch-dark environment. Waiting for the vision to adjust to the darkness in these environments feels like a deprivation of the sense of sight.
The process for developing the film is standard, however the size of the film being used adds an interesting twist to the process, which causes the crew to have to figure out a more efficient way to work.
Nigel Berringer’s, who produced this film along with Peterson, not only focuses on the artist’s creative process, but also takes into account the social importance of a project of this magnitude. Joel Nicholas began the project well aware that his cameras would crumble along with the building within a short period of time and that his pictures would become history.
Follow the transformation of this part of the city through the eyes of an old building now.