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News: Roane State photography students enjoy visit to camera obscura

News: Roane State photography students enjoy visit to camera obscura

Members of the Knoxville Community Darkroom use their cell phones to time print development and make calculations while printing a pinhole photograph taken inside the nonprofit’s camera obscura. From left: John Allen, Anna Lawrence, Roane State photography student Archie Clark, and Donna Moore.

Dec. 19, 2017

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

When these shutterbugs recently took photographs, they were inside the camera.

Roane State photography students last month made a first-ever trip to the Knoxville Community Darkroom’s headquarters that included a visit to the nonprofit’s giant mobile camera in a converted trailer.

It’s called a camera obscura, and it functions as a simple pinhole camera. When not on tour, it’s based on Homberg Drive in the Bearden area.

“They let us take pictures with their 5-foot by 10-foot mobile camera and then to develop them in their darkroom,” photography student Archie Clark said. “It was a fantastic opportunity.”

Grant money was used to make the walk-in camera from a trailer. Inside, an inverted image is projected through a pinhole or lens for conventional black-and-white photos.

From left, Debbee and Archie Clark of Spring City are pictured with Knoxville Community Darkroom member John Allen outside the nonprofit’s trailer that’s been converted into a camera obscura – a simple but giant pinhole camera

The nonprofit Knoxville Community Darkroom takes the mobile camera to schools and events “so that people can have a better understanding of how cool photography is,” said Roane State Professor Stacy Jacobs, chair of the college’s art department.

“We worked in their fully equipped darkroom with photographers that share our passion for traditional photochemical (film) photography,” Clark said. “It was a fantastic opportunity.”

“It was excellent,” Jacobs said of the field trip. “Being able to see inside that giant pinhole camera was just mind-blowing.”

Last summer, the Knoxville Community Darkroom received funds through the Bailey Opportunity Grant and the Tennessee Arts Commission to buy an enclosed cargo trailer and convert it into the camera obscura.

The nonprofit’s mission is to educate the local community about film photography and traditional film processes as a means of artistic self-expression.

“We were exposed to processes that we haven’t used at Roane State,” Jacobs said of the field trip. Black-and-white film can be developed and printed, and alternative processes such as cyanotype or lumens can be used in the nonprofit’s standard darkroom, the professor said.​

For more information about art courses and programs at Roane State, contact Jacobs at (865) 354-3000 ext. 4311 or

Roane State students, check out spring 2018 photography classes

If you have any questions about these classes, email Stacy Jacobs at

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