Millennium camera installed in Arizona but the photo won’t be ready for 1000 years
A camera with an unusual twist has been installed in Tucson, Arizona. Called the Millennium camera, this camera will only take one image in its life. However, that image will take 1000 years to expose.
The project is an experiment designed by philosopher Jonathon Keats and the University of Arizona. Because none of us will be alive to see the final photograph, it’s more of a conceptual art piece than a traditional camera.
The millium camera is essentially a pinhole camera. However, the camera has been designed to extend the exposure to as long as possible. The outer copper cylinder leads to a thin sheet of 24-karat gold. This will let the light seep in slowly onto a light-sensitive surface that is coated in thin layers of an oil paint pigment called rose madder.
According to the University of Arizona, when people open up the camera in 1000 years, they should have an extremely long exposure recording every change the landscape goes through in that time.
Reflecting on Tomorrow
The camera itself is mounted on a pole next to a bench. Next to it is a notice board which explains the project and invites people to reflect on the future.
“Most people have a pretty bleak outlook on what lies ahead,” Keats says. “It’s easy to imagine that people in 1,000 years could see a version of Tucson that is far worse than what we see today, but the fact that we can imagine it is not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing because if we can imagine that, then we can also imagine what else might happen, and therefore it might motivate us to take action to shape our future.”
Keats plans on installing more cameras in other locations, including in Chongqing, China. “This project depends on doing this in many places all over the world,” he says. “I hope this leads to a planetary process of reimagining planet Earth for future generations.”
No guarantee it will work
The camera overlooks a mountain range, which Keats expects will still be there in 1000 years. In the best-case scenario, Keats expects that the mountain range will be the sharpest and darkest parts of the final image, with less permanent features such as buildings appearing lighter and more ghostly.
“Let’s take a really dramatic case where all the housing is removed 500 years in the future,” Keats says. “What will happen then is the mountains will be clear and sharp and opaque, and the housing will be ghostly. All change will be superimposed on one image that can be reconstructed layer by layer in terms of interpretation of the final image.”
If the camera works, it will beat the longest known exposure by a mile. So far, the longest exposure record is 8 years and was taken using a beer can as a pin hole camera.
However, this is all assuming that the experiment works at all. The camera could be destroyed or vandalised far earlier than the 1000-year time span.
If the Millennium Camera does survive, future generations might not know what the camera is or how to extract the image. If Gen Zers can’t even figure out a rotary phone, I don’t hold out much hope!
All images: Christopher Richards, Arizona University Communications
Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe