Camera Obscura Experiment I
(The Great Moorman Experiment)
© 2003-2017 By Marcel Dehaeseleer
This page is dedicated to:
Jack White - John Costella - Rick Janowitz - Rich DellaRosa
Jim Fetzer - David Healy - Ian Griggs - Scott Myers - Phil Hopley

Version Française


October 2003, I suggested, on JFKResearch Forum, the following Experiment:
The use of the old photographic principle, called "Camera Obscura", in order to recreate the Mary Moorman famous photograph (Polaroid #5). The primary goal of the Experiment is to know, with accuracy, where she, Mary Moorman, was located when she took her picture (on the grass or on the street).

Chronology of the events

From the very beginning, I have received encouragement from Jack White and John Costella I thank them warmly for their friendly support! These gentlemen immediately understood the benefit the Experiment can provide.

Unfortunately, after tragic family problems, I was unable to come to Dallas to carry out the Experiment. Then, by chance, I gained the help by my cyber-friend, Rick Janowitz. Indeed, Rick proposed; "I may carry out the Experiment myself when i will be in Dallas for the 40th anniversary". I immediately sent my Polaroid Land Camera Model 80A to my friend, Rick Janowitz!

While the camera was enroute (from Belgium to Ohio), Rick was doing valuable research regarding the type of film used in the Polaroid Land Camera Model 80A. We needed to know the exact dimensions of the Emulsion Coating on film. Thanks to a contact with a member of the Polaroid Staff, Rick obtained from Polaroid all the film specifications and data needed. Indeed, Rick obtained an original specimen of photo taken with a camera Model 80A (Polaroid Film Type30). Prior to his Dallas trip, Rick created film and aperture Templates on frosted acetate for use in the Experiment

On 20th November 2003, Rick, Scott Myers, and Jack White conducted the Experiment in Dealey Plaza. Jack was present for technical assistance also. The first results were not enough accurate to draw a definitive conclusions... Just because it was a first attempt, done with a technical material of an average quality and with not-optimal conditions.

Benefits from such a Experiment

A benefit incorporating the Polaroid Camera Model 80A into a "Camera Obscura" Experiment is increased precision in determining the aim of Mary Moorman when taking the Moorman #5 photo. Indeed, this modification allows us to aim like a reflex camera. Placing the camera in the vicinity of the "supposed" position of Mary Moorman, then adding the frosted acetate overlay to the open back of the Polaroid camera one can immediately see if the line of sight corresponds to and aligns too objects within the Moorman #5 photo.

In 1988, Geoffrey Crawley along with Jack White and Gary Mack replicated the Moorman Polaroid (with more or less accuracy). To obtain this result, a Polaroid Camera Model 80A loaded in darkroom with a Tri-X film was used. Checking Crawley's results you'll notice the photo covers a larger area than the Moorman #5 Polaroid. In fact, captured on the Crawley negative, the area is wider than the area captured on the emulsion coating Polaroid film type30. In other words, Crawley has captured the film aperture cutout area from the camera, which is wider than the surface covered by the emulsion coating of a Polaroid film Model30. Click HERE to see a photos comparison Moorman / Crawley.

Important precision: In this case, their main goal was not really to obtain a perfect Moorman #5 replica, but to determine the "Resolving Power" from the camera and lens. It is also important to know, than they used the REAL Moorman camera!

Thanks to research done by Rick Janowitz, we now know the dimensions of the Emulsion coating of the Polaroid Film Type30 (used in Polaroid Camera Model 80A). We can now place, on the back of our "Pseudo-Camera Obscura" a frosted Acetate template, with markings outlining the emulsion coating of the film along with markers defining hard edge objects in the Moorman #5 photo.
Examples: The outlines of the Pergola and of her windows, but also the outlines the Retaining Wall, etc...)

The above will be the procedure used for the second Experiment, "Camera Obscura II".

Some Additional Technical Informations

The main goal of such Experiment is not to recreate another Moorman famous Polaroid #5 !!!
But... It is necessary to shoot a photograph of the back of the Polaroid Camera with the Frosted Acetate overlay to validate the result of the Experiment. After the first Experiment, we concluded, Ground Glass would give of better results than the Frosted Acetate.
After some tests carried out recently, I temper my enthusiasm concerning the Ground Glass. The Ground Glass allowed better resolution and brighter images. On one hand, it is much easier to aim the camera using the Ground Glass insert. On the other hand, too much light is concentrated in the center of the picture. Therefore, the excess axial light misleads the exposure cell of the second camera (digital camera in this case) used for re-shooting the Ground Glass insert, even if the exposure of the second camera is mid-range (picture #8 in Photo Gallery).
The Frosted Acetate has the benefit of better dispersion and distribution of the light in a uniform across the surface.


Photos Gallery

Click to Enlarge
Click to enlarge...   (1) - Here beside, the result of the first Camera Obscura Experiment quickly carried out at home (Belgium) in less than 40 minutes. This time (October, 2003), I used a translucent paper sheet instead of Frosted Acetate. As you can see, the picture is not very sharp and details are missing. The idea to apply this old photographic principle to a Polaroid Camera Model 80A (the same model used by Mary Moorman) was totally new!
Click to enlarge... (2) - One among the best photos taken by Rick JANOWITZ on Dealey Plaza.
As you can see, the result is clear enough.
Several photos of the Experiment.
Click to enlarge...

(3) - One among the best photos taken by Scott MYERS on Dealey Plaza.
As you can see, the result is also clear enough.

Rick and Scott on Dealey Plaza during the Experiment.

Click to enlarge...   (4) - When Rick sent me back the Camera (autographed by Rick and Jack himself), I decided to shoot another picture in my backyard, this time with the Frosted Acetate that Rick used on Dealey Plaza.
This time, I removed the two back panels from the Polaroid Land Camera (to easier handling).
Click to enlarge...   (5) - Here, the Polaroid Land Camera on tripod, without back panels. The camera is placed almost at the same place where the first attempt was done a few months ago. The Frosted Acetate (see on the back) is the one created and used on Dealey Plaza by Rick Janowitz.
Click to enlarge...   (6) - This photo comes from the back of the Frosted Acetate. The illumination conditions were almost the same ones as when the first attempt was done. As you can see, the captured image is clear and quite detailed.
Click to enlarge...   (7) - After the Experiment on Dealey Plaza, we were convinced than we should obtain better results (resolution and sharpness), by using Ground Glass.
As you may see on the photo beside, the Frosted Acetate is replaced by the Ground Glass.
Click to enlarge...   (8) - As explained above, Ground Glass are too much permeable to the light and therefore the exposure cell of the second camera is misled. The result, a bright spot in the center of the photo.


Comparison of the results between
"Translucent Paper Sheet" and "Frosted Acetate".

Click to enlarge...   (9) - After a comparison of the results between the Translucent Paper, the Frosted Acetate and the Ground Glass...
One can conclude, and without shade of a doubt, than the best material for conducting the Second Experiment is the Frosted Acetate.

Other topics related to Mary Moorman
 Mary Moorman Camera - Polaroid Camera Model 80A 
 Mary Moorman's photos 
 Mary moorman - Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia 

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