The Century Camera The Century Camera

The Century Camera

by Jonathon Keats

January 23, 2010

See what develops over the next 100 years.

The Century Camera appears in GOOD Issue 18, which is on newsstands now. While you can try printing your pinhole camera at home on a color inkjet or laser printer-make sure you print it double-sided, as you need both sides to make it work-the thicker ink of a printing press will probably give you better results over the next century or so. We recommend you go pick up a copy of GOOD Issue 18: The Slow Issue. But, if you want to give it a go, here's a PDF version of the page from the magazine.As you flip to the next page, rip it out. Cut, prick, fold, glue. You've just constructed a pinhole camera that will take a single picture with a 100-year-long exposure. Since you'll need to fix the camera in the same position until 2110, find a place that matters to you enough to document the next century of change (it will still work if you move it, the image will just be more abstract). It doesn't have to be an endangered rainforest. It could be your own neighborhood.This camera is a simple instrument. The pinhole lets in a little light each day, focusing it on the black ink at the back of the box. The ink will gradually fade as light streams into the camera, preserving a unique positive print of the illuminated landscape. Nothing fast-paced will be captured-neither people nor machines-but transformations over decades will register as shades of ghostly gray, and whatever remains constant will look as sharp as it would in an instantaneous snapshot.You may not be around to see the results of your work. But if your children watch over it and protect it from the elements, and if your camera weathers the next hundred years, then your grandchildren will receive a revealing inheritance. What's more, the following generation of GOOD readers will have the opportunity to view the image you've made in a special folio that the editors have committed to printing in 2110.In the meantime, you may come across cameras set up by other readers. They might be encountered anywhere, or rest unobserved for the whole hundred years, thousands of black-box time capsules collectively witnessing our world in transition.


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The Century Camera