The camera obscura is an optical device that projects an image that is in the surroundings on a screen. It was use to make paintings, and it was one of the techniques that led to photography. It consist in a box or a room with a hole in one of its sides. Light passes through the hole reflecting the object from the exterior in one of its walls.
“It has sometimes been suggested that Vermeer might have used a camera of a rather different kind, which certainly existed in his time, but which was only manufactured in large numbers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and which took the form of a closed box, with an external translucent screen. The observer is now outside the box, not inside it. Both Canaletto’s and Reynolds’s cameras were of this type. One problem compared with the room-type camera is that the image is viewed under ambient light and so seems subjectively less bright. Fox Talbot and the French pioneers of photography, Niépce and Daguerre, built the first photographic cameras by modifying commercially produced camera obscuras of this general type.”
But why some people think that he used this technique in his paintings? Well, there is no documentary evidence of it. The only things that we have to support this idea are his paintings. The first person suggested that was Joseph Penell, when he observed the painting of “officer and laughing girl”. The figures seem to be very close, but if we look at the officer’s head, it can be observed that it is bigger than the head of the girl. Nowadays this way of paintings is very common, but in the 17th century, it was an innovation.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/vermeer_camera_01.shtml .Retrieved on May 20, 2011, at 10:30
Camara oscura, from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A1mara_oscura .Retrieved on May 20, 2011, at 10:30