THE GREAT PICTURE
Curated by Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada (The Legacy Project)
In the summer of 2006, six artists embarked on a unique and challenging collaboration. Using an abandoned F-18 Fighter jet hanger at the former Marine Corps El Toro air base in Southern California, they repurposed it into a giant camera obscura. Then they used their hanger-sized camera to produce the largest single photograph ever made.
A ghostly, panoramic view of air base topography, it depicts rectangular pads of concrete paving that form a linear grid across the picture plane. Contrasting the work’s striking photographic perspective are painterly marks of hand-applied light-sensitive emulsion that mark it is a hand-made piece. We see airport architecture: a Quonset hut, a control tower and palm trees like asterisks along the horizon line that clearly defines the demarcation between earth and sky.
Even though The Great Picture was made using the oldest of image technologies—the lensless pinhole camera obscura, most visual references to the work are more analogous to painting than photography. The scale and texture of the work recall the sculpture of Richard Serra and the landscape paintings of Anselm Kiefer. The Great Picture defines topographic views on an unprecedented scale and, given its Southern California setting, also brings to mind the topographic work of Ed Ruscha.
F-18 Fighter plane hangar converted into a camera by sheathing the building with more than 24,000 square feet (7,315 square meters) of blackout material. With an aperture of 6 mm, the image was exposed for 35 minutes onto a seamless photosensitized sheet of unbleached muslin weighing over 1,200 pounds fully rigged. The Great Picture was sensitized with liquid gelatin-silver emulsion and dried in the dark. After exposure, the print was developed, fixed, and washed by traditional wet bath processes.
The exhibition documents the making of the image from start to finish. In addition to the piece itself, the exhibition includes a reduced but large-scale positive print of the image, a framed test strip, a DVD program documenting the making of the work plus a walk-by wall installation time-line listing the names of hundreds of photographers spanning the medium’s 180-year history to date.
More information at the Legacy Project website.
Number of Works:
Silver print, measuring 31 feet 7 inches x 111 feet (9 m x 18 cm x 34 m);
Reduced positive print 19 x 5 feet (6 x 2 meters);
Framed test strip approximately 8 x 0.5 feet (2.4 x 0.1 m);
Ten (10) framed documentary photographs approximately 20 x 24 inches (51 x 61 cm);
DVD videos of the piece being made
Frame Sizes: See above
Space Requirements: A grand hall with ceiling clearance of 35–40 feet (11 x 12 meters)
Tour Dates: 2008 – ongoing
Participation Fee: Medium ($10,000 – $20,000, plus installation)
Support Materials: Publication: "The Great Picture: Making the World's Largest Photograph" (Hudson Hills Press, 2011); artist lectures available
REVIEWS AND NEWS
Art Ltd., Liz Goldner, September 2011
KPCC Public Radio (video and article), Steven Cuevas, July 29, 2011
Popular Photography (online), Tim Barribeau, July 18, 2011
Design Arts Daily, Peggy Roalf, July 14, 2011
KTLA 5 Los Angeles (video), Dave Malkoff, July 2011
Huffington Post, Bill Bush, July 11, 2011
Culver Center for the Arts (press release), July 10, 2011
Daily Pilot, Joanna Clay, March 19, 2011
Alternativephotography.com, Anthony Mourian, March 4, 2010