In a world where all things small are considered beautiful and cool, a photographer is doing something quite drastically different from the norm. Dennis Manarchy is in the process of creating a camera that is so huge, it captures 24-foot tall realistic photographs of incredible detail. Photoshop-ing these pictures would be totally out of the question.
The camera itself is a thing of wonder. It’s huge, to say the least. At 35 feet long, 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide, it’s large enough to fit a small apartment into. Manarchy is in the process of collecting more funds to make the camera functional, and in the meantime, he has a working immobile model, equally large, fixed in his studio. It uses negatives that are 4.5×6 feet in size. An actual window needs to be used as a lightbox to view them. As opposed to dipping the negatives in chemicals, they need to be showered with the stuff in order to be developed. The resulting photographs are of such pristine detail that even the fleck of an eyelash or pores on the skin can be viewed clearly.
Of course, blown up photographs of people are not new, we get to see plenty of those every day on billboards. However, the difference with Manarchy’s photographs is that with film this large, the detailing offered is 1,000 times greater. The quality of these pictures is something else, rather surreal I must say. I’m looking at this portrait of an American Indian by Manarchy, for instance, and it is quite eerie to be able to see the fine wrinkles, pores and hair on his face. It’s like the person is right before me. Manarchy says it isn’t easy working with a camera and film of such size; for one, there are no retakes, you can’t click away like you would with a digital camera. A portrait of any person is made only once, so everything needs to be planned out well.
Speaking of plans, Manarchy has big ones for his dream camera. Once he’s able to take it out on the road, he plans to travel over 200,000 miles with it across all 50 states. His aim is to create a collection of photographs that tell the stories of American culture and history, the ones that have played their role in shaping the nation. Pictures of cowboys, Eskimos, Cajuns, Native Americans and WW2 veterans, will all be part of the project called ‘Vanishing Cultures’. After the trip, Manarchy plans to have the 24 feet photographs displayed along with the negatives in stadiums all over America. Now, that’s something I’d call a life-sized project.