If you’ve ever been to Paris, I’m sure you took some photos of the Eiffel Tower. Photographer Mathieu Stern is based in Paris, yet he realized that he never took a photo of this famous landmark in an unconventional way. And you know Mathieu – lots of his work is unconventional and experimental.
So, he teamed up with BonfotonUP and transformed a Parisian apartment into a gigantic upright camera obscura. He captured one of the world’s most famous landmarks in a new light, and he shares this adventure in a recent video.
The challenge: Reinventing a timeless icon
Once Mathieu started thinking about the project, he realized that he wanted to turn an apartment overlooking the Eiffel Tower into a giant camera obscura. He turned his room into one before, but it was not the same. The image was reversed (as with the regular camera obscura), and his view shows the Eiffel Tower far in the distance. His vision included not just making a standard camera obscura, but also taking timelapse videos of the projected image using his digital camera.
The nightmare of finding the right location
To turn his vision into reality, Mathieu needed the perfect location—a room with a direct view of the Eiffel Tower. But as he wanted something different than the regular camera obscura, his research led him to the BonfotonUP lens. Developed by a small Finnish company, this lens is unique in its ability to create a reversed camera obscura, flipping the upside-down image to make it upright. I also had the chance to play with it… Although the view from my room is far less remarkable.
As it turned out, so is the view from most Parisian apartments. Finding the right location turned out to be more challenging than Mathieu had anticipated. Despite reaching out to his Instagram followers for help, it took over a week without promising leads. Many Parisian apartments either had no view of the Tower or only offered a side view. Hotels were equally unreliable, as there was no guarantee he would get a room with the perfect view.
Finally, Mathieu stumbled upon a promising Airbnb listing. The sixth-floor apartment was perfect for his project and offered a direct view of the Eiffel Tower. Mathieu promptly booked the room after getting the owner’s permission for his experiment.
The setup: Transforming the room into a giant camera
Armed with essentials like a knife, wide-angle lens, tin foil, a 50mm lens, gaffer tape, spray water, scissors, and the BonfotonUP lens, Mathieu got to work. He used spray water to help the tin foil stick to the window and block out light. using a provided template, he cut out a hole for the lens. The initial results were promising but imperfect; a brown cabinet and a deep front door interfered with the projection.
Thankfully, Mathieu realized that the other room in the flat was way more convenient for his project. With minor adjustments, he achieved the result he’d been hoping for!
With time against him, Mathieu managed to shoot several timelapse videos and still images before the day ended. The shots he captured were unlike any other takes on the iconic Eiffel Tower, which had been his main idea. He brought the landmark to life through minimal gear, but with lots of creativity and effort. He spent the night at the apartment, and in the morning managed to capture the final timelapse that turned out to be his favorite of the bunch.
Mathieu’s project serves as a reminder that creative thinking will get you far. He managed to bring a fresh perspective to one of the world’s most photographed landmarks. And I’m sure you’ll agree: it’s not an easy task!