Shi Guorui, like Vera Lutter, makes huge camera obscura photographs, exploring the sense of place, and seems to mostly exhibit his works as negatives. He’s used one of the watchtowers on the Great Wall of China as a camera, set up a camera obscura in a karaoke room to get a huge overview of Shanghai, and built another vast camera in situ in the Himalayas:
Shi Guorui in 2005 completed his third major, large scale camera obscura work. This project captured Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world using a special construction for a camera. Unlike his earlier projects where he was able to use existing buildings or rooms in buildings as his camera, the camera for Everest was built on site. The artist made a number of trips to Everest to pick the perfect high altitude site.
He’s recently been working on a project in the US, with the For-Site foundation, exploring iconic places around the country. There’s an interesting article about the Beijing-based artist, which touches on why he works with both size and slowness:
“I think it’s very pure,” said Shi, who loves the long hours spent in the dark silence of the camera, thinking about the outer and inner worlds, the look, history and spirit of the place whose image is being burned onto the wall. “When I’m inside, I feel this quiet in my mind, in my heart. I’m very peaceful, happy inside. The time for normal people is very long. For me, I feel the time is blank. It goes by very quickly.”
Sometimes he drinks tea or a beer while he’s in the tent, gazing at the paper where the picture is being imprinted, seeing the complete image develop in his mind long before the chemicals actually make it clearly visible.”
(Another article, including a picture of his photograph of the Hollywood sign, in the NY Times, explores similar ideas
“Early on I was interested in these technical details,” Mr. Shi said as he sat in the darkness. “But what’s important to me now is the process.”
“This is a spiritual experience for me, sitting inside the camera,” he continued. “I am not a practicing Buddhist but this is my form of meditation. This is my practice.”
Shi Guorui’s work from this project is on view at the de Young in San Francisco until 30th September 2007.