Even though I’ve put a photo of my vintage Canon camera at the beginning of this post (above), this post is not really about cameras. It’s about rooms.
(But that’s not totally true – because in a way this post is kind of about cameras. Or at least it’s about light, and darkness. And letting light into our rooms. And the impressions that the rooms leave on our minds.)
“Camera” is the Latin word for room. I studied four years of Latin in high school, and I remember our teacher, Miss Mayhew, showing us the layout of a typical Roman house. I was struck by how small and windowless the bedrooms seemed. I wondered how the Romans could see – where the light came from. The only openings in the walls seemed to be the doors.
The word camera has its English meaning because the first photographic cameras were actually rooms. People discovered that if you let a very small, controlled amount of light into a very dark room, then the scene outside the window (what we would call the aperture of the camera, today) would be projected on the opposite wall, upside-down. Eventually the photographic rooms (cameras) became smaller and smaller, until in the 20th century they could fit into the palm of your hand, and you could carry the photographic room around with you, on a strap around your neck.
This post is really about the light that pours into dark rooms.
I love noticing the quality of light in the rooms I live in. Sometimes – like in the photo at the beginning of this post – only a little natural light gets in. Other rooms, by contrast, seem to glow from the daylight or sunlight that streams through the apertures. My memories of rooms – my mental photographs, if you will – include the flavour and texture of the light that my eyes once saw, projected onto the backs of my eyes, upside down.
For me, home is a place where the light gets in.
Above is a drawing that my niece made of the room I stayed in at our resort in Jamaica earlier this year. I asked her to make the picture partly to give her something to do, but also partly because my camera couldn’t get the whole room into one shot, and I wanted a record of what the room looked like.
Come to think of it, there was plenty of light in this room, even though there was only one window. Maybe the Romans could see well enough in their rooms, after all.
How does the light get into your home?