WOODS: star


In 2013 whilst working at the School of Art at Oxford Brookes University I initiated an artist residency at Wytham Woods, a woodland owned and used by the University of Oxford for scientific and environmental research and conservation.


In this 'atelier en plein air,' I have been working with basic optical devices and light sensitive materials like pinhole cameras, camera obscuras, and  lumens to try to substantiate how I feel about the place into experiences that could be made visible and shared.


The pinhole images chart the course of the woods around the sun: each line, broken or unbroken, represents a day. They also show the planet's daily revolution on its axis. Sometimes a tree appears like a ghost or a cloud of green smoke; othertimes the sun alone repeatedly crosses the horizon.  The lumens were left for several days on the ground of the woods to record leaves and grasses without disturbing the environment. The long exposures have abstracted the woods and the changing weather (wind, rain, and sun) reacted with the photographic emulsions creating unique and unrepeatable images.


In this series, there are no dates, durations or landmarks to balance the empirical research and anthropocentric approach of the scientific community and the deliberate imperfections aim to humanise the work.









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DDigital prints 11 x 9 inches © Maga Esberg 2017

Digital prints 11 x 9 inches © Maga Esberg 2017

Exhibition at the Saw Mil, September 2018 © Maga Esberg 2018

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The second phase of the residency (2016-17)  is the design and construction of a camera obscura. As part of  the ‘Curiosity Carnival’ at Wytham Woods ( 29- 30 September 2017) I opened the prototype camera obscura to the public.


A camera obscura is a large pinhole camera which allows people to experience the optical process of image making from inside the camera. It can also be used as a drawing aid and a photographic camera. It can also be a space to think and dream....


The  illuminated view entering through the opening in one of the walls appears firstly as a dim projected image .  What is immediately apparent is that the projection is upside down; it is also left to right and smaller in scale than the original.


As the eyes accommodate to the low light levels, colours, shapes and details begin to appear. The projected image is not so much like a photograph but more like a moving film: you can see the wind blowing in the trees, clouds moving and people passing in front of the camera obscura.  One is intuitively aware that the 3 dimensionality of the view outside is  ‘collapsed’ into a 2 dimensionality projection, people have referred to it as magical.


The camera obscura is a contemplative device and any photographic reproductions made as documentation lack the immediacy of the live imagery.  


All images and texts © Maga Esberg 2013-17. No reproduction withouth permission.