• courtesy of Metabolic Studio

Most pinhole cameras are made out of shoe boxes. But Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen, and Tristan Duke’s pinhole camera is a shipping crate. Since 2010 the three artists, all part of the optics team at LA’s Metabolic Studio, which uses “devices of wonder” to investigate energy sources, have been traveling the globe with this “liminal camera” in order to document the ways people use water resources.

Last October they were in Chicago working on a series of photographs of local waterways and water usage. Those photos, most of them black and white and averaging four by eight feet, are now on display at the DePaul Art Museum.

One of DPAM curator Greg Harris’s favorite images shows one of the offshore Lake Michigan water intake cribs. “It was taken during a storm and is a view of the lake with dramatic clouds above the horizon line and vignetting at the edges,” he says. “It has a dramatic ethereal effect.”

The camera has also been used for portraits. At an event at the Co-Prosperity Sphere last November celebrating William S. Burroughs’s 100th birthday, audience members took turns standing still on a ladder for two minutes while others stood inside the camera, watching the images appear upside down and backward. Ten of those portraits will be on display at the Sphere this evening.

“We hadn’t experimented with the camera as a portrait medium,” Duke says. “We were shooting at night. It was a really spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment thing. Depending on how still a person stood, there are strange effects. They are blurry close up, but when you see them from a few paces back, they start looking more and more resolved.”

The three artists will be at DPAM tomorrow conducting workshops. The public can come aboard the camera and see the live images inside as photos are taken.

“Liminal Infrastructure”, through 8/9, DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton, 773-325-7506,, free.
“Liminal Portraits”, Fri 5/15, 6-10 PM, Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S. Morgan, 773-655-6769,, free.