Brendan Barry Transformed a Skyscraper Space Into a Camera Obscura

Brendan Barry converting the entire 46th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper into a camera obscura was the highlight of the Skyscraper Camera Project.

From May 10 to 16, Brendan Barry transformed the 46th floor of Manhattan’s iconic 101 Park Avenue into a creative photographic space. Dubbed the Skyscraper Camera Project, the site-specific installation comprised of a camera obscura, a darkroom, and a temporary art installation. The UK-based large format photographer, educator, and camera maker also photographed some pedestrians on the building’s plaza using a camera built from a scale model replica of 101 Park Avenue.

The idea for the Skyscraper Camera Project came to be when Nicholas Kalikow, the founder and director of Favorite Child Creative, learned about Brendan Barry and his skill for making cameras out of virtually everything. He thought that the 46th floor of their client, 101 Park Avenue, was available at the time and would be perfect for a crazy project for Barry, given its amazing 360-degree views of the Manhattan skyline.

“The building loved the idea, we enlisted Brendan, and the Skyscraper Camera Project was born. It was important to use this as an opportunity for community partnerships and outreach and we found the perfect matches with Aperture Foundation and Red Hook Labs. Brendan’s method and aesthetic of combining traditional camera obscura photography and education, with modern, cutting edge conceptual art, makes him one of the U.K.’s most exciting and promising young artists, and I can’t wait for his body of work to grow,” Kalikow added.

So, on May 11, Barry set to work converting the space into a camera obscura to prepare it for the printmaking workshop that was for May 13 to 15. The students were taught the mechanics of traditional black and white photography, shooting large scale photos which they developed on the dedicated darkroom on the same floor. The photos they made are thought to be the largest analog photographs of New York City.

“The Skyscraper Camera Project has been one of the most exciting and rewarding creative experiences I’ve have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. With the assistance of 20 of the most motivated and engaged young adults you could hope to meet (from Red Hook Labs and Aperture Foundation) and the most professional and hardworking crew and production team one could wish to work with, we created a giant camera with built-in darkroom capable of producing both direct positive and negative analogue photographic prints up to 45” x 93” as well as a multi lens immersive camera obscura installation,” Barry said about the project.


On the last day of the project, Barry also took photos of people walking along the plaza of the 101 Park Avenue, delighting them with a functioning camera made from a scale model of the building. Guests were also invited to check out the 46th floor to see the camera obscura installation with 13 lenses projecting images onto translucent screens, as well as view the prints made during the week and some of Barry’s previous works.


If all that has got you curious about Brendan Barry, make sure to check out his website to see more of his projects and quirky handmade cameras.