Brilliant Light Beam Art, Made Using The Oldest Trick In The Book

These light installations by Chris Fraser use a modified camera obscura to create an astounding effect.

The camera obscura is one of the world’s oldest, simplest devices, dating back at least to the times of Aristotle. It’s a dark box (or room) with a hole drilled in one side. When light shines through this hole, it projects a perfect image from the outside world that has been flipped upside down.


“It is both utterly remarkable and terribly ordinary,” writes artist Chris Fraser. “But there is no need to stop with one opening. Bore a second hole into the wall and two images, offset but roughly similar, will appear. Continue to drill. Remove the wall piecemeal, minding each change. Picture will stack atop picture, dissolving eventually into the mere impression of light.”

That’s the rough philosophy and methodology behind his incredible light installations. Based upon the simple physics of the camera obscura, Fraser manipulates light to feel wholly unique. He drills more and more holes until he creates something that’s rich and layered, yet every bit as sharp and clean as beams of light can be.

It’s a unique, technology-based perspective of light that only could have been spotted by an artist who began his career as a photographer. “I had regarded my house as a living camera,” he tells Co.Design. “I would watch pictures of the sun move across the living room floor over the course of a day, and notice how it’s path would change with the season. I photographed it unsuccessfully many times. There just wasn’t a good way to fix the image. The beauty was in the movement.”

So he began using the idea of the camera obscura to make portraits of light in the real world to create what he describes as a “crystalline experience of the ambient environment.” If you deconstruct that comment for a moment, it actually describes his work quite well. Fraser’s rooms are edged with a perfect, sharp geometry, like a crystal. But the light shining in is part of a greater, dynamic world.

Yet as impressive as his installations are, Fraser’s intent isn’t merely to drop your jaw. “I want the viewer to go home and see his or her own space anew,” he writes. In that regard, he’s not just showing us a neat trick of light. He’s teaching us to see light on our own.

[Hat tip: Triangulation]


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.