Monthly Archives: September 2011

Bog Camera Top (Nat Chard)

Having realised the potential of the picture plane as an agent that could receive ideas critically, the question was how to find out more about this. Almost all the struggles with the picture plane are in the name of truthfulness to the original – quite different from my needs. There are several examples of more developed picture planes, for instance the spaces in the inventive Dutch Peep shows by Van Hoogstraten (that will feature one day soon), or the domes of planetaria with their associated (and wonderful) projectors. The world that I decided to search more deeply was that of the Habitat Diorama. Always a pleasure in the background, they came into focus through two events. One was that by coincidence two colleagues, Christine Hawley and C.J.Lim, were taking their students around the Yale

BogCamFront (Nat Chard)

Campus in New Haven on the same day that I was taking my group there. C.J. had been there before and I asked him if there was anything else I should see. Knowing me quite well he suggested I should see the embalmed dissected rats in the Yale Peabody Museum, and I immediately ventured there to examine them. In fact it seems these rats were fermented in C.J’s wonderful imagination, but in the museum I came across J.P. Wilson’s dioramas. A few years later when working on the picture plane I wrote to the Peabody with some elementary questions about the dioramas and received a speedy and short reply asking about the nature of my interest. So began an extensive correspondence with Wilson scholar Michael Anderson. Michael is the expert on Wilson and his research is generously offered on this website:

(and follow the arrows at the top to find subsequent chapters).

BogCamSide (Nat Chard)

To get the proper story you should read Michael Anderson’s history, but in short Wilson studied architecture at Columbia and then worked for the architect Bertram Goodhue for twenty years before taking up diorama painting at the American Museum of Natural History. He brought with him his own rigour but also the precision of architectural perspective projection and transferred this to the problem of the curved background painting behind the taxidermy in dioramas. In all my diorama research I am hugely indebted to Michael for sharing his extensive and exacting research (and expertise) on Wilson. These cameras are the consequence of a hugely productive and enjoyable collaboration with Michael.

BogCamRear (Nat Chard)

To understand Wilson’s projection technique as fully as I could I designed and built three identical cameras that in one photograph would make all the calculations for an ideal diorama projection that Wilson would make when employing his process. I built three so that I had a backup, but also so that I could take stereoscopic pictures (more of which later), so the cameras were built 65mm wide, the typical separation between our eyes.

BogCam Chassis Pattern (Nat Chard)

Michael Anderson suggested using Wilson’s Cold Bog diorama at the Yale Peabody Museum as the basis for this work. He could arrange access to the original site that it is based on, and as he was working on some replacement birds for the diorama, he would be able to arrange to have the front glass removed so that I could photograph the diorama without reflections.

Copenhagen Harbour with flat picture plane camera (Nat Chard)

Bog Cam first test picture (Nat Chard)

Above you can see the difference between a photograph from a camera with a flat picture plane and one from my camera dedicated to the Bog Diorama (the lower photograph). The anamorphic distortion is accurate for the geometry of the Cold Bog diorama at the Yale Peabody – this view was outside my office in Copenhagen looking across the harbour. The views are not identical – the flat picture plane camera was next to the Bog Camera with a pinhole and the same focal length and used Polaroid film to test exposures before using the 120 slide film in the Bog Diorama camera. This was the first test shot.

So as to be able to take several pictures from each camera on the site, the film winds on to allow three shots from each roll (with a healthy margin to keep the film light tight). The mechanism in the front of the camera pulls back to keep the film in its curved track while winding on.

Tomorrow I will post some more pictures of the camera and of its photographs.

See also Michael Anderson’d Blog:


Drawing Sink (Nat Chard)

This  fragment of a drawing is a question from about twelve years ago. How else to draw architecture and how it is occupied. This sink is at the entrance to a building and , like the one in the entrance to Villa Savoye, provides the opportunity to clean off the dirt of the outside world. Unlike the sink at Savoye, this one relished the dirt. The Ascot*-like gas heater and cold water pipe have hospital like taps so that your hands do not touch anything before being washed. Under the sink is a machine that feeds through filter papers one at a time for each washing. When the water has passed through then these are places int he cabinet to the right of the sink. The water drips away into a drain in the floor. The plug also has a hospital lever so that hands do not touch anything until they are clean. The drawings in the filter paper are probably more giving when seen as a group – the difference between each days grime, as opposed to the individual figures in the paper. It was the prelude to a number of experiments for a Drawing Room, some parts of which still reside in my basement.

*Ascot is or was a manufacturer of water heaters that used to sit over sinks in kitchens and seedy bedsits throughout the UK. The one in my drawing draws attention to its flue, rather than hiding it at the back of the device as happens with most commercially available water heaters.

Pattern1 (Nat Chard)

These are some of the patterns made to manufacture drawing instruments one to three. The following four types of instrument are made on laser cutters (and the subsequent ones have reverted to aluminium using a waterjet cutter). The patterns are made of cibatool, a homogenous and isotropic material designed to have no variation in character and to machine easily. I cut them on my small cnc mill.

Pattern 2 (Nat Chard)

The pieces of wood are added as air vents when making the silicon rubber mould so that whatever is poured into them can displace the air in the void. The parts for drawing instrument one were cast in plastic and for instruments two and three (and the incomplete instrument) in aluminium. For these I cast wax into the moulds that the foundry covered with a ceramic case and then melted the wax out to make the mould for the aluminium.

Pattern 3(Nat Chard)

Pattern three (above) was the first piece I machined. There are no drawings of the whole thing and no complete drawings any of the parts. They were designed incrementally, even within each part, so the only thing known about the next component was the dimension and geometry of the fixing to the previous piece.

Underside of chassis (Nat Chard)

Leg pattern (Nat Chard)

Dome brackets (Nat Chard)

Frame for drawers (Nat Chard)

Various components (Nat Chard)

Drawing Instrument 3 (Nat Chard)

Instrument Three is a linear development of Instrument Two, which was destroyed in transit while returning from an exhibition. The picture plane is a little different, but in most other respects it is a remake of Instrument Two.

Drawing Instrument 3 (Nat Chard)

Drawing Instrument 3 (Nat Chard)


Drawing Instrument 3 (Nat Chard)

Space between feet study (Nat Chard)

After the work int he previous post there are a number of studies that look closer at some of the conditions within the yellow drawing. Above is a study for a much larger drawing (below) of the space between the lower legs of the two people walking. In each case a single (and sectioned) figurative foot locates the scale and nature of the abstract registration of knee, lower leg and foot.

Full size space between lower legs (Nat Chard)

Some other drawings (this time drawn over Polaroid transfers) build up a perceptual composite of the foot during this walk (below). Both are drawn oer images of X-Rays.

Foot study 1 (Nat Chard)

Foot study 2 (Nat Chard)

Electronic context (Nat Chard)

As I mentioned in the last post, the vertical yellow lines in the yellow drawing sit in place of a coherent idea of context for the space. THis drawing is a suggestion that the skin of the space, which is sensitive to electronic signals in the skin of the people who walk through it, is also sensitive to electronic signals in the ether. The impressions in the architectural skin in this image (above) are from navigation signals and are quite stable. As with previous pairs of drawings, these are stereoscopic so if you go cross eyed so that one image registers over the other, you will see the thing in 3D. The animation figure was built for a stereoscopic film of this project. I think it is stored on obsolete media, but if i can find it I might post it.

Personal space study (Nat Chard)

The image above (also stereoscopic) is a personal space study. It is quite a hard one to resolve as there is  incomplete overlap in the images, but if you can resolve it the personal space drawn around her body works quite well.

Time/space section (Nat Chard)

The last image in this post is a later attempt at similar content to the yellow drawing (in the previous post) but with a mixture of instantaneous and durational images (working from a photofinish-like photograph of two people walking). All these drawings are from 1994.