Camera Obscura #4 Refusal to Allow Mediation

Old City Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

Camera Obscura #3 Projections

A4 Art Foundation

Camera Obscura #2 Kheipone

Wits Art House, Johannesburg

Camera Obscura #1 Toilet

Camera Obscura #

The camera obscura works find their geneses in my thinking around the wider photographic practices that have become dominated by the idea of the photographs, a portable image object whose function as evidence and its veracity as a representational devise obscures the wider mysteries of the photographic scale. After years of frustration with the dominance of formidable scholars such as Susan Sontag within the wider discussion of photography, I began to think about the camera obscura as conceptualized by 10th century Arab scientist and mathematician Alhazen, whose thinking about light and vision lay the foundation for the camera we know today. I was particularly exited by this view’s emphasis on the idea of a camera as a space housing a body. This idea foregrounds some thinking I have about a Diane Arbus quote that pointed out that there are things no one would ever see unless she photographed them, emphasizing her situatedness as the key ingredient of her photographs. This idea had placed her at the center of her photographic practice instead of the audience envisioned by a documentary impulse of showing at the expense of seeing. In my mind Arbus’s quote was not about her photographing to show others, but rather engaging in seeing and using the camera to record what she was seeing, which could then be seen by others.

The actual works that developed from this thinking on the camera obscura is mediated by a fascination with a type of magician popular in Bolobedu and the wider southern African region. The stories talk of a doctor who could ferry a group of a hundred illegal migrants from Mozambique to South Africa through the highly guarded Kruger National Park without anyone seeing them. You would often hear stories of a group of game rangers seeing a herd of buffalo only to realize later that the foot prints where human. Such trickery was also used in farms where thieves would see a field full of snakes when coming to steal maize. Such idea around manipulating visions often made me wonder how such magic might manifest photographically. The camera obscura is also prompted by my engagement with a rumor of a dream by a Lobedu person while they were in Berlin, Germany in 1897. Such a rumor led me to the practice of dreaming as a process of physically occupying a visual space where the objective is not to remember and represent what one sees in their dreams, but to occupy the dream long enough to comprehend what one was seeing, again putting the body back at center stage of an infinite visual scale.

The camera obscura explores how one might comprehend the photographic and the visual scale, reminding oneself and understanding the visual or the image as an infinite input not bound by time–a perpetually evolving image.

Works in the Camera Obscura Works include camera obscura #1 ‘Toilet’ (2015), camera obscura #2 Kheipone (2016) at the Wits Art House in Johannesburg, camera obscura #3 Projections (2016) at A4 Art Foundation in Cape Town, and camera obscura #4 Refusal to Allow Mediation (2016) in the wall of the old city in Jerusalem, Israel. Camera obscura #0 which is in the planning stages is envisioned as a public art initiative to be installed in the Bolobedu Village of Khetlakong (Mefakeng) and Ga-Sekgopo (Thabana ya Dafida) 

Contact:  George Mahashe                                 Email:                                   Web:

© George Mahashe


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