Located in a tourist-laden part of Santa Monica, the 113 year-old Camera Obscura perches nonchalantly on the cliffs. A short jaunt from the famous pier, the 50s type font on the camera’s housing begs you to take a gander.
One of three left in California, Robert F. Jones constructed the camera in 1898, and gave it to the city in 1907. For 50 years, the camera delighted beach goers and peeping toms on Santa Monica beach. By 1955, it was relocated to the nearby Senior Recreation Center.
The Camera obscura dates back to the ancient Greek era, as it was one of the earliest optical inventions. Scholars believe that these types of “cameras” were utilized by Renaissance painters like Leonardo Da Vinci to project live images onto the canvases to assist them in painting. By the Victorian and Edwardian times, it had become a popular attraction in the US, and across the pond.
I was rather pleased to see a diverse blend of persons queuing up for their opportunity to view the beach through a Renaissance lens. We have come so far when photography is involved, yet we sometimes forget what novel inventions we have left behind. The camera obscura is free, and all you have to do is wait your turn once you sign in. Once you’re in, they give you the key, and you can spend a large chunk of time spinning the wheel, exploring the beach of Santa Monica, or the car culture on the other side. A fun side adventure for all ages. Bring grandpa along, so he can prattle off tales of how this was the only camera he had as a boy, while his great-grandchildren struggle for a grainy snapshot with their iPhone 6’s.
Senior Recreation Center
1450 Ocean Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am – 2pm Sat 11am – 4pm
Phone: (310) 458-8644