With powerful cameras built into everything from smartphones to home devices, it’s hard to believe that photography is less than two centuries old. While the latest and greatest dSLR might seem like a product of our modern time, at its most basic it’s still structured the same way as the earliest cameras. In turn, these came about not out of thin air, but rather from knowledge passed down over more than a thousand years, that of the camera obscura.

So how exactly does it work and why does it matter today? Check out the video below to learn about three artists who engage with the camera obscura through their photography:

Want to learn more? Don’t forget to browse other inspiring resources on the fundamentals of photography at MOPA’s Photo 101Also, make sure to check out MOPA’s Nancy K. Dubois Library for unique resources related to photography and film.


Special thanks to the artists Abelardo Morell, Ruth Thorne-Thompson and John Chiara. 

Additional financial support is provided by the Gould Family Foundation and the City of San Diego.