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News: Big Camera offers unique learning experience for Roane state students

Roane State Student Victoria Shoup squeegees a photograph created inside the visiting Big Camera while Photo Club president Archie Clark collects chemistry in the Roane State darkroom.

Dec. 12, 2018

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Roane State students got an up-close and personal view of the inside of a camera – literally – when The Big Camera! made a stop at the Roane County campus.

The Big Camera! is a modified, enclosed six-foot by 10-foot utility trailer that’s been converted into a working camera and can also function as a darkroom. It is the brainchild of East Tennessee- based photographers Donna Moore, Anna Lawrence, and John Allen, who were able to secure Bailey Grant funding in order to help finance the project.

“It’s especially magical to look inside and see the world outside, inverted and projected on the back wall of the camera,” said Roane State Art Professor Stacy Jacobs.

Students were able to place light-sensitive paper on the back wall inside the darkened camera interior, expose it to light for varying times via a small hole in The Big Camera!, and then develop the images in the college’s dark room.

“I thought it was fantastic and inspiring,” Jacobs said. “A lot of opticianry students came by and seemed mesmerized.”

With unusually cold weather, students warmed up in the foyer of the O’Brien Building, where information about alternative photographic processes was displayed along with modern artworks that were crafted using historic processes. Moore and Lawrence were happy to share their knowledge and experience with the group.

At times, it was standing-room-only as students crowded the hallway to check out the exhibits.

Anna Lawrence from the Big Camera and Roane State opticianry program director Rebecca Morton wave their arms to help students better see the image inside the big camera. You can see a student peeking into the camera.

About five students at a time could physically step into the Big Camera!, which was parked just outside. “To understand the camera, think box camera and then scale up from there,” said Archie Clark, president of the recently formed Roane State Photo Club.

Jacobs orchestrated the Nov. 27 visit, presented by the college’s Photo Club, the college’s art department, and the nonprofit, Knoxville-based A1 Lab Arts. It was the first time The Big Camera! made an appearance on a Roane State campus, Jacobs said.

The college will offer an introductory photography class – ARTP 1310 – in the spring semester that emphasizes the basics of black-and-white film photography.

That class will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the main campus.

Jacobs said the college’s new Photo Club was organized during the fall semester. To learn more, contact Jacobs at (865) 354-3000 ext. 4311,

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