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World’s Largest Pinhole Camera: Produces largest pinhole photograph ever

Artist, Photographers, and volunteers are making this pin hole photo possible
Artist, Photographers, and volunteers are making this pin hole photo possible
© Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum / Photo by Robert Johnson

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will exhibit at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., from now through November. The largest pinhole camera in the world took a 3,375-square-foot photograph of an abandoned Marine Corps air station in Southern California.

“The Great Picture” is a unique camera obscura black-and-white, gelatin silver, photograph 31 feet high and 107 feet wide. In 2006, a group of six artistic photographers created an enormous individual photograph; they are Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh and Clayton Spada with hundreds of volunteers.

Those skilled artist, photographers and volunteers transformed the abandoned F/A-18 fighter jet hangar into the world’s largest pinhole camera anywhere in the world; therefore, by darkening and sealing the entire interior from all outside light.

While this particular pinhole camera is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest; however, the “camera-obscura” technique has been known for more than 2,500 years B.C. The Greeks created a pinhole shadow image on the wall of a temple.

The actual pinhole size was just under a quarter-inch in diameter and centered between the metal hangar doors to serve as the camera’s aperture or lens.

The Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Southern California Established in 1942, became the largest Marine air station on the West Coast and headquarters for Marine air operations in the Pacific region during and after World War II and decommissioned in 1999.

During the postwar era, all U.S. presidents landed in Air Force One at El Toro before there was “The Great Picture” displaying the air station’s control tower, other structures and runways, and the San Joaquin Hills in the background.

“‘The Great Picture,’ as a photograph, is distinct from almost every photograph in the world,” said McCulloh.

“It remains linked to, and an integral part of, both the camera and the place by containing the information of the place within it. It also contains the process. You can’t look at it and not ask—what was the camera?”

The Air & Space Udvar-Hazy Center. Jacques Garnier signing copies of “The Great Picture: Making the World’s Largest Photograph, a book documenting the techniques used by this creative process. Attendance at both National Air and Space Museum buildings combined exceeded 8 million in 2013, making it the most visited museum in America.