In 2013 I initiated an artist residency at Wytham Woods, a woodland used by the University of Oxford for environmental research and conservation.


In this 'atelier en plein air' I have been experimenting  with basic optics,  light sensitive materials, process and experience.


The wind, changes in season and long exposures abstract the woods and the changing weather conditions like the rain, sun and humidity attack and melt the photographic emulsion; together they create unique and unrepeatable images.


The pinhole images chart the course of the woods around the sun: each line, broken or unbroken, is a day at a time . The photograms are chance and accidental drawings; a collaboration with natural elements made by placing photographic paper on branches and bushes or directly in contact with the ground to invite intimacy and to minimise my impact on the woods.


My creative process sets aside the empirical research and anthropocentric approach of the scientific community working in the woods. In this work there are no dates, durations, specific locations or botanical details.  I am looking for traces of  interdependence and differences between humans and nature .


The work also comments on the proliferation of digital and mass produced images; the Wytham images are one-offs and their deliberate imperfections humanise the work.







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Photograms 11 x 9 inches © Maga Esberg 2017

Pinhole Camera images 11 x 9 inches © Maga Esberg 2017

Pinhole Camera images various sizes © Maga Esberg 2017

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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.