The Cámara Oscura: Havana within a giant camera

On a corner of Plaza Vieja in Old Havana stands a tribute to photography and to the visionaries who first launched themselves into this curious process capturing images through the intelligent use of light and sensitivity. Located on the top floor of the eclectic early 20th-century Gómez Vila Building, the Camera Obscura is a gift from the Council of Cadiz, Spain, through the office of Eusebio Leal, the City Historian. It is the only one of its kind in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is one of 74 worldwide today.

The video, made by renowned Cuban artist and photographer Juan Carlos Alom, is simply brilliant.

Photos by Juan Carlos Alom, © All rights reserved.

Most modern reproducers of life, even including the camera, really repudiate it. We gulp down evil, choke at good.
Wallace Stevens

Photography is a tool to deal with things that everyone knows but to which nobody pays attention.
Emmet Gowin

The camera is a fluid way of encountering that other reality.
Jerry N. Uelsmann

The operation of the camera obscura is based on the principles of light reflection through the use of two lenses and a mirror located on a periscope. The image that is captured by the periscope is projected on a concave platform 1.8 m in diameter, located inside a dark room. The ambient light during the projection contributes to obtain sharp images and are therefore best seen on clear, cloudless days.

In its rotation, this great lens is able to capture beautiful and unusual city scenes, which as passive bystanders we are often unaware of–rooftops, domes, towers, balconies, plazas; people walking up and down busy streets, or hanging out the washing; kids playing in parks and gardens; visitors discovering the intimacies of the city; treetops, the sea, the sky; fishermen and lovers, too, at Havana’s emblematic seawall, the Malecón.

Discovering new angles to our city is a rewarding experience. The bird’s eye view from the camera obscura helps us to understand better the effort of the City Historian’s Office in the preservation of our architecture, our environment, and our history in a city that has keptintact its traditional urban fabric, its spirit and cultural identity.

Cámara Oscura, Habana Vieja
Mercaderes esquina a San Ignacio, Plaza Vieja
Open Mon-Sat, 10am-5:20pm
Phone: (+53) 7-866-4461


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