Observation Point - Camden Art Centre

American artist Zoe Leonard harnesses a natural phenomenon to think about ways of looking, recording and experiencing time and space.

Across all the galleries this major exhibition engaged three distinct forms of photography and transforms one of the spaces into a camera obscura. Daylight filters in through a lens, projecting an image of the world outside onto the floor, walls and ceiling. This work invited comparisons with film and video as the light source changes throughout the day, giving rise to a continually shifting, immersive and cinematic event.

The camera obscura (dark chamber) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that has been used since antiquity as a tool to understand the behaviour of light. The experience of Leonard’s installation is durational and as such invites comparisons with film and video. As the ephemeral panorama unravels continually inside the space, attention is drawn to the shifts in movement and light – some barely perceptible, some dramatic.

Showing alongside this was a series of photographs taken directly of the sun, challenging the possibilities of photographic representation. Photography customarily depicts the colour, form and spatial extension that the light (of the sun) allows us to discern, rather than the sun as subject itself. These images combine subject and process, retaining the glare and flare on the lens, the grain of the film in the enlarged print and the evidence of the artist’s work in the darkroom. The installation of found postcards in Gallery 2 continues Leonard’s practice of attending to the world around her as source material, reframing or representing already existing images so as to refresh our own act of looking. Together, the works ask us to question photographic seeing and how we relate to the mediated image.