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Old Photo Technique Gets New Look

By October 4, 2022No Comments
Screenshot of opening spread of Washington Post article showing four photos taken with this new-old technique.

Screenshot of the opening spread of the Washington Post article.

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Marketing, Communications & Blog Coordinator

If you’ve ever taken a photography course or an art class, you’ve probably heard of the camera obscura technique. A recent article in the Washington Post shows how this ancient technique is being reconceptualized and used in interesting new ways.

Everything old is new again

Camera obscura is a technique more than two thousand years old where light, passing through a pinhole or a lens into a dark space, projects an image upside down and backwards. Imagine a photographer with a view camera, under a hood, looking at the inverted image on the glass screen at the back of the camera and you’ll have an idea how this works.

Some art historians believe that several notable painters of the Renaissance used a camera obscura to sketch out their paintings and this is how artists mastered perspective.

While the technique is hardly new, photographer Abelardo Morell is putting it to a creative new use, by projecting the image onto unusual surfaces and photographing the result. The article describes how Morell uses a periscope atop a tall tripod that’s covered in black material to project an image onto the ground. A camera attached to the tripod pointing down is tethered to a laptop outside the tented tripod where the artist can compose, focus, and perfect his shot. The result is an interesting way of adding a textural element to photos.

Van Gogh visions to altered reality

In the article, Morell is in Arles, France, in the stomping grounds of Vincent Van Gogh, photographing some of the landscapes Van Gogh probably saw. The added textures of grass or rocks on the ground in a way mimics the painter’s rough brush strokes.


There are many photographers and companies selling textures one can add to photos and the results can be quite striking. The Altered Reality category of NANPA’s Showcase photo competition sees a number of beautiful and evocative images using textures. Morell is, however, going old school and using actual textures. It’s an interesting technique with some very compelling results.

Recommended reading, for sure.

Have you run across an unusual photography technique more people should know about? Share it with us!

Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He serves as NANPA’s Interim Marketing and Communications Coordinator and manages NANPA’s blog. He can be found online at or on Instagram @frankgallagherfoto.