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The Giant Camera | by elston
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The Giant Camera

This is the Giant Camera located behind the Cliff House in San Francisco. It was built in 1946 by Floyd Jennings. It looks rather out of place there, somehow airlifted from a decaying amusement park. There’s a little bit of irony there, as it was once part of Playland-at-the-Beach Amusement Park. The Camera hasn’t moved; Playland, the Cliff House and the Sutro Baths were at one time all owned by George Whitney. When Playland closed in 1972, it was close to being destroyed, but was eventually saved by public campaign – and as recently as 1999 struggled through the same situation.


Fortunately for us, not only was it still there, it was open. This thing is so tucked away that this was actually something new for Rita.


And now you ask, what the heck is the Giant Camera? I’m getting to that. It is sometimes referred to as a camera obscura, which in latin means “dark chamber”. And that’s essentially what it is. At it’s most basic, think of a pinhole camera. However, this one has the lens on top, and a series of mirrors and lenses to project the image onto a large disc in the middle of the room. The question then arises, "What kind of fool would go into a dark room to look at the projection of something they can see for real outside?"


Well, certainly I’m that kind of fool. It’s not easy to describe how fascinating it is, but somehow it’s like peering into an alternate universe. I think the thing of it is we’re all so used to looking at televisions and computer monitors, but the detail of this is amazing. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.



Set begins here.

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Taken on August 25, 2005