Step inside a giant inflatable camera obscura that reflects the outside world in Rhode Island

A design studio in Rhode Island has created a large portable dome comprising of 109 pinhole cameras across its surface, allowing guests to step inside a magical room that reflects the outside world through the use of analogue technology alone.

The Compound Camera has been created using over 100 pinhole cameras.
The Compound Camera has been created using over 100 pinhole cameras. Image by Pneuhaus

Called the Compound Camera, the twenty-foot inflatable installation is essentially one large panoramic camera obscura (“dark room” in Latin), an ancient technology that sees a small pinhole being placed on the exterior of a darkened chamber to allow a small amount of light to travel in. By doing this, an inverted image of whatever is outside of the chamber is actually projected onto the walls of the room. Dating back through the centuries, the technology has been used by painters and artists for years, and with the addition of lenses, serves as the foundation of all modern day cameras.

The outside of the Compound Camera.
The outside of the Compound Camera. Image by Pneuhaus

Created by Pneuhaus, the compound camera was first installed at the Pawtucket Arts Festival last year, and is currently located inside their studio in Providence, Rhode Island. It is scheduled to travel to different events across the US this summer, including the Exploratorium in San Francisco, where it will be from 26 May to 3 September, before travelling to Toledo, Ohio for 15 September.

Every cell of the structure's surface reflects a slightly different view of the world outside.
Every cell of the structure's surface reflects a slightly different view of the world outside. Image by Pneuhaus

Each of the individual cells project a slightly different view of the surrounding environment onto the interior surface, and the structure’s flexible material allows visitors to push on and distort the projected images, allowing them to play with the properties of light and optics.

Guests can manipulate the surface and play with the properties of light inside the dome.
Guests can manipulate the surface and play with the properties of light inside the dome. Image by Pneuhaus

“Guests react with surprise. They really don't expect to see what they see inside. The immediate reaction is, ‘Whoah!’ And once inside, they understand that they are seeing live images of the outside world, but they have a hard time understanding how it works. Many people don't believe that it's totally analogue. They think there are projectors or digital cameras embedded within the piece,” Pneuhaus told Lonely Planet Travel.

More information on the Compound Camera project is available at the official Pneuhaus website.