My tutor suggested I should do some research on this as I had mentioned it in my annotation of a Vermeer interior and some experts believe he used one.
Camera = room
Obscura = dark
The ‘camera obscura’ has been known of since ancient times by the likes of Aristotle and Leonardo da Vinci who in 1490 wrote about it in his sketchbooks. It was called the ‘camera obscura’ until the early 1600’s when it was used by the German astronomer Johannesburg Keples.
The ‘camera obscura’ is an optical device which projects an image on to a screen. Originally a room but over tone it developed in to a portable box which had a small hole in one side through which the light travels. Instead of it going in a straight line as is usual it reforms as an image on any flat surface opposite and is upside down and reversed.
The lenses used by Vermeer did not focus accurately so the middle ground would be sharp and in focus but the foreground and background were blurry. The camera we use today developed from the ‘camera obscura’ and we can use depth of field to get a varying range of focus from sharp to blurry depending on what effect we want in the photo.
You can read more here
I remember watching this Omnibus programme with David Hockney when he had written a book about the camera obscura. Can’t believe it is 10 years ago.