Capturing Cultures Through the Eye of America

Dennis Manarchy's artistic journey, with a 35-foot camera.

Creative professionals are always on the quest to achieve one thing: perfection. Renowned photographer Dennis Manarchy dreamed of creating that perfect picture. To accomplish this lofty goal, Manarchy devoted 10 years to hand-building a 35-foot-long camera.

Manarchy’s first attempt at creating such a massive camera was inspired by the Italian translation of the word, “camera,” which is “room.” He put a lens on the door of a small pantry in his home, and, over time, the room-camera evolved into the massive camera prototype it is today.

The Eye of America, as the camera is called, outputs negatives measuring 4.5 x 6-feet wide and captures a level of detail that typical enlargements of film and digital images lack, says Chad Tepley, the project’s manager. “You can see every tiny hair on a person's face, every wrinkle, every pore.”

Once the camera moves from the prototype phase to completion, it will embark on Manarchy’s upcoming artistic journey: a project titled “Vanishing Cultures – An American Portrait.” Manarchy’s team and the Eye of America camera will travel more than 200,000 miles across 50 states to capture photographs of cultures and peoples that have helped shaped the history of America including: Native Americans, Eskimos, cowboys, Appalachians, Cajuns, and more. “It's important that we document these cultures before they are gone, because they have all played a role in who we are as a nation,” says Tepley.

“Our vision for the exhibition is to have about 30 portrait prints measuring 24-feet tall and 16-feet wide, displayed outdoors on large truss displays, and 20 to 30 full-size original negatives housed in dramatic, architecturally unique tents along with the big camera. We’ll scan the images at an extremely high resolution using a Better Light scanning back in order to create enormous prints. We haven’t contracted a printer yet, but will once we get sufficient funding,” says Tepley.

The project is seeking funding through Kickstarter, a fundraising platform for creative projects. “While it won't fund our entire project because our overall budget is near $10 million, it will be critical in helping with our initial expenses like camera design and developing of our prototype negatives. We have to start somewhere, and Kickstarter is great because it gives people a chance to be a part of this project,” says Tepley.

To donate, visit keywords: Vanishing Cultures by Dennis Manarchy.

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