World’s Largest Photograph Premier Exhibition September 6-29th at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena

I recently a press release for this event, which is approaching on the calendar:

“World’s Largest Photograph:
Premier Exhibition September 2007 at Art Center College of Design

The Great Picture—the world’s largest photograph—will have its premier showing September 6 – 29, 2007 in the “Wind Tunnel” exhibition space at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

The Great Picture is a unique gelatin silver photographic image three stories high by eleven stories wide. The $65,000 photograph was made using a shuttered Southern California F-18 jet aircraft hangar transformed into a gigantic camera obscura—the largest camera ever made.

Exhibition Dates
The dates for the exhibition at Art Center College of Design are:
Exhibit Opening Reception: Thursday, September 6, 2007 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Special Lecture: Thursday, September 20, 2007 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Last Day of Exhibit: Saturday, September 29, 2007

The photograph was created over the nine months leading up to July 2006 by six well-known photographic artists collectively known as The Legacy Project, aided by 400 volunteers, artists, and experts. Working in their jet-hangar-transformed-into-camera, the group hand-applied 80 liters of gelatin silver halide emulsion to a seamless 3,375-square-foot canvas substrate custom-made in Germany. Development was done in a custom Olympic pool-sized developing tray using ten high volume submersible pumps and 1,800 gallons of black and white chemistry.

The Great Picture has been featured in hundreds of publications from art journals such as Art in America, Photographie, AfterImage, Juxtapose, and Black & White Magazine to newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Der Spiegel and The Guardian. A hardcover book on the project, now in production, will be released in 2008. In addition, the Guinness Book of Records pre-approved and is now evaluating applications in two categories: world’s largest photograph and camera.

The photograph shows the control tower, structures and runways at the heart of the shuttered 4,700-acre Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Southern California, shut down in the base closings of the mid-1990s. Once home to U.S. Marine Corps air operations for the western United States and Pacific region (including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East), El Toro is now being turned into housing and one of the largest urban parks in the western United States.

Great Picture Facts

Finished Size: 107’–5” x 31’–5”; 3,375 square feet.

Photograph type: Black and white negative image with a gelatin sizing and a hand-coated gelatin silver emulsion.

Subjects Depicted: The Marine Corps Air Station El Toro control tower, twin runways, and heart of the future Orange County Great Park, with a backdrop of the San Joaquin Hills and the Laguna Beach Wilderness.

Camera: Building #115, an F-18 fighter plane hangar at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Irvine, California.

Camera Size: 44’–2” feet high by 79’–6” feet deep by 161’–6” feet wide.

Materials To Darken Hanger: 24,000 square feet of six mil black viscuine; 1,300 gallons foam gap filler; 1.52 miles of two-inch wide black gorilla tape; 40 cans of black spray paint.

Fabric Substrate: Seamless unbleached muslin specially ordered from Germany and weighing 1,200 pounds rigged.

Aperture Size: One-quarter inch (6mm) pinhole fifteen feet above ground level—no lens or other optics.

Emulsion: 80 liters of Rockland Liquid Light—a gelatin silver black and white sensitizer hand-painted onto the fabric under safelight illumination. Emulsion applied on July 7, 2006.

Exposure: 35 minutes beginning at 11:30 a.m. July 8, 2006

Date of Development: July 8, 2006

Developing Materials: 600 gallons traditional black-and-white developer and 1,200 gallons fixer delivered by ten high-volume submersible pumps.

Developing Tray: Eight mil vinyl pool liner contained by a wooden sidewall—114 feet x 35 feet x 6 inches deep.

Print Wash: Twin 4.5 inch fire hoses connected to a pair of hydrants tested at 750 gallons-per-minute.

The Artists

Jerry Burchfield • 714.292.6170 •
Mark Chamberlain • 949.697.5237 •
Jacques Garnier • 714.402.0308 •
Rob Johnson • 714.310.4816 •
Douglas McCulloh • 323.309.8076 •
Clayton Spada • 714.306.5868 •


The World’s Largest Photograph—Questions of Meaning

“The photograph is not a picture of something, but is an object about something,” states influential Southern California artist and longtime UCLA professor Robert Heinecken.

What the Great Picture is “about” has proven to be a controversial question. From the time it was created, the Great Picture has generated discussion—even lively debate—with respect to what it signifies.

“The photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the ‘possibility’ of meaning,” states Allan Sekula, Southern California photographer and theorist. Only when a photograph becomes embedded in a concrete discourse, emphasizes Sekula, does it generate a set of messages and meanings. For the Great Picture, this is the key issue. Otherwise, the photograph remains merely an awesome oddity—a really, really big photograph with a painterly landscape image of a military base.

In point of fact, the lively discourse about the Great Picture’s significance is a sign that this singular photograph has importance beyond just its unprecedented scale, strange beauty, and popular appeal. The Great Picture is a rarity: an exceptional image that strikes a chord with the public and that also has been quickly recognized as a photo history landmark by critics. Importantly, the Great Picture remains open to a wide range of possible readings. Photographers, artists, critics, and the general public are invited to come see this exceptional image and form their own ideas about its significance.

Here are some of the ideas most forcefully put forth about the Great Picture in the ten months since its development in a darkened Southern California jet hanger.

• The Great Picture—the ultimate traditional gelatin-silver black-and-white photograph—not only operates at the heart of the 168-year tradition of film-based photography, but in fact signals a coming Renaissance of film-based photography.

• The Great Picture encapsulates the history of vision machines and is a crystalline example of their power in modern society. The Great Picture was made using the oldest of image technologies—a lens-less pinhole camera obscura, discovered by the Chinese and noted by Aristotle. But the image metamorphosed into digital guises immediately. Intense media coverage and hundreds of involved image-makers spread The Great Picture around the globe in pixel form within minutes of completion.

• The Great Picture is a marker of decisive change as the 168-year film/chemistry dominance of photography gives way to the digital era. The scale of the undertaking and of the image reinforce The Great Picture’s position as a milestone that acknowledges the past while signaling photography’s move away from film and into pixels.

• The Great Picture operates across the rupture between painting and photography. The hand-applied photosensitive emulsion and hand-processed quality bring the image full-circle back to photography’s earliest technologies, while creating an object that is half painting, half photographic image. In both concept and appearance, The Great Picture bridges the gap between the painting and photography.

• The Great Picture portrays the heart of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, thus engaging with U.S. military history and memorializing the most contentious land use fight in Southern California history—the battle over whether to make the base into an international airport or a giant metropolitan park.

• The Great Picture is an object made for the least complicated of reasons—the possibility was there. A group of artists found themselves with the opportunity to climb what looked to be a very large and interesting mountain, so they set out on the journey. All other considerations—the deep implication of both digital and traditional technologies, the employment of a pinhole camera obscura, the hand-painting of the photosensitive emulsion—were merely attempts to find the clearest path up the mountain.

Despite much discussion and mailboxes jammed with e-mail, the six makers of the Great Picture themselves have reached no consensus on meaning. This is hardly a surprise. It’s a commonplace that if you lined up all the artists in the world end-to-end, you would still never reach a conclusion.

So once again, you are invited to come see the largest photograph ever made, and follow Robert Heinecken’s injunction to join the discussion over what this picture is “about.”



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