Within 18 months a large camera obscura will join the line-up of attractions around Whangarei's Hatea Loop.

And anyone confused about what exactly a camera obscura is can attend an exhibition promoting the planned public sculpture.

Obscura opens at The Shutter Room at the Old Library on Thursday evening - the result of work started more than two decades ago by Whangarei photographer Diane Stoppard, one of three creative women behind the Pohe Island sculpture.

The camera obscura is the optical device that led to photography and consists of a room or box with a hole in one side. Light from outside passes through the hole and strikes the walls inside, where the external scene is reproduced upside down. Nineteen years ago Ms Stoppard was awarded a scholarship to travel the world researching the use of camera obscura photography, also called pinhole photography.


Using contacts made during the trip, she has formed the Obscura exhibition featuring pinhole photography from Australia's Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart; Justin Quinell (UK) and work from New Zealand photographers Jenny Tomlin, Ellie Smith and herself.

"So we have this beautiful exhibition to raise awareness about the [Pohe Island] obscura. It's this cute little cycling back which is really nice," Ms Stoppard said.

In the meantime work would continue on the camera obscura sculpture, to be positioned on the Riverside area of the Hatea Loop and showing a projection of Te Matau A Pohe bridge, with the interactive artwork believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

At a recent meeting Whangarei District Council agreed to accept the sculpture as a gift to the community, allowing the project backers to proceed, after more than a year's work from Ms Stoppard and collaborators Felicity Christian and Trish Clark.

The project was made more complicated by the fact it was being built on the infilled dump site, so the final design would not be nailed down until engineering tests were done.

It was expected the sculpture would be built within 12 to 18 months.

"But the concept is fully formed," Ms Stoppard said.

Obscura runs throughout April (Wed"Fri 12pm-4pm; Sat 10am"1pm).