Berlin Takes on an Ambitious 100-Year Long Exposure Pinhole Camera Project

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A hundred years from now in May 2114, a hundred or so Berliners will retrieve 100 pinhole cameras from their original hiding places to unearth photographs shot for an entire century.

At least, that’s what Jonathon Keats is hoping for. He’s the San Francisco-based conceptual artist behind this ambitious and never-been-done-before project, aptly called the Century Camera Project. On May 16, Keats and Berlin art gallery Team Titanic distributed 100 pinhole cameras to anyone who was interested to get involved for a €10 deposit each. Those people were supposed to hide their cameras anywhere and pointing at anything in Berlin, acting like the “world’s slowest surveillance cameras”, and leave instructions for their descendants. A hundred years later, their descendants will recover those cameras and return them to the gallery in exchange for the €10 original deposits. The 100-year-old long exposures will then be extracted from the cameras and included in a special exhibition.

Keats says of the project, “The photograph not only shows a location, but also shows how the place changes over time. For instance an old apartment building torn down after a quarter century will show up only faintly, as if it were a ghost haunting the skyscraper that replaces it.”

The idea behind the project was to initiate monitoring of urban development and/or decay spanning a century in the streets of the German capital. Keats chose the pinhole camera and black card stock for it, specifically because they are less likely to break down and are also easier to figure out a hundred years from now when our latest tech today has become very obsolete.

There is, of course, zero guarantee that this project will even prove to be a success. Not only will these cameras be exposed to the elements and human activities that would render the photographs useless, we don’t even know if the city will still be around then. The entire world could cease to exist before the century is up. Still, Keats and Team Titanic are optimistic. In fact, they’ve already scheduled their Century Camera Project exhibition on May 16, 2114 for the future generations to behold.

“The first people to see these photos will be children who haven’t yet been conceived. They’re impacted by every decision we make, but they’re powerless. If anyone has the right to spy on us, it’s our descendants.”

Via Fast Company