Years before the first photographic print and two centuries before Google Glass, was the Camera Lucida, a clever optical device designed by Sir William Hyde Wollaston that utilized a prism to project an image onto a piece of paper so you can trace it, a method that would transform life-drawing for nearly a century. Have you ever used one or seen for sale? Likely not. Your best chance would be scouring Ebay where antique Camera Lucidas sell for upwards of $300. Enter university professors Pablo Garcia (previously) from the Art Institute of Chicago and Golan Levin from Carnegie Mellon who have teamed up to design the NeoLucida, the first portable camera lucida in nearly a century.
So what’s the point? In the age of Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and Instagram who needs to sit down and draw what’s in front of them? The duo explains via Kickstarter:
We both have a lot of students who’ve come to believe that being able to draw photo-realistically is the most important thing. We both love realistic drawing, but not necessarily the way it’s usually taught—which often ignores the tightly-intertwined relationship between drawing and imaging technologies. In particular, art students are encouraged to draw photo-realistically, in the manner of the Old Masters, but without the proper tools for doing so. So we’re producing the NeoLucida as a provocation, not as a business, to help get this discussion started. We hope the NeoLucida will prompt new questions about the relationship of art and technology—and potentially even disrupt business-as-usual in the classroom. Most importantly, we genuinely believe that using a camera lucida will profoundly change how people see, how they draw, and how they think about art.
Lastly, is there really a demand for a simple $30 drawing device based on a little prism? The Kickstarter received pledges for almost 100 of them while I wrote this post. So there’s that.
Update: It appears they’ve sold out of their initial run of 2,500 NeoLucidas with no plans to increase that number at this time.