The view from Eagle Rock - a digital pinhole image by Ryland West, showing the view from one of Keat's camera sites

A series of pinhole cameras have been positioned around Lake Tahoe to record in a single exposure the effects of climate change over the course of the next 1000 years. Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has booked space at the nearby Sierra Nevada College to hold an exhibition of the results in the year 3018.

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The idea of the project is to show the long-term effects of climate change on the environment, by recording how the scenes the four cameras are pointed at alter over the course of a 1000-year exposure. Though technical details are scant regarding the size of the aperture, the basic premise of the cameras is a pinhole construction with a rose-colored pigment to record the image. The pinholes have been made in 24-karat gold sheets (though the reason isn’t clear why gold was used) and the pigment records the image by fading in areas where it is exposed to most light. As it is the areas that are exposed to light that fade the final image will be positive.

According to an interview on the Vice’s Motherboard website Keats has ‘borrowed a technique from Renaissance painters who worked with copper. This involved rubbing the copper with pumice stone, then rubbing it with garlic and finally applying a layer of pigment. After studying different pigments, Keats chose rose madder, a red pigment that is derived from the root of a madder plant.’

The tiny cameras have a copper body and measure 2.75in long by 2.25in in diameter, and have been placed in strategic positions to monitor the condition of the lake and its shoreline. Whether the cameras can remain still for 1000 years, and whether the exposure will be right in 3018, remains to be seen – but not by any of us. Keats himself says in the Motherboard interview “The [environmental] changes that happen may wipe out the camera or wipe out the institution that’s in charge of it. I just signed a contract with Sierra Nevada College that is for an exhibition of these four photographs in the year 3018. We’re certainly taking chances with this, but that’s also part of the picture in a way.”
I’ll wait closer; to the time before buying a ticket for the opening night.

Press release


Experimental Philosopher Jonathon Keats Explores 1,000 Years of Environmental Change in the Lake Tahoe Basin

ART EXHIBITION | OCT 18 - NOV 16, 2018
TAHOE GALLERY, SNC, Incline Village, NV

Tahoe Timescape is a public art project conceptualized by experimental philosopher and artist Jonathon Keats that photographically documents the next thousand years of environmental change in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The project enlists a new approach to photography based on the traditional pinhole camera. Pierced through a plate of 24-karat gold, a minuscule pinhole focuses light onto a rose colored pigment, such that the color fades most where the light is brightest, very slowly imprinting a unique positive image. The Millennium Camera's thousand-year-long photographic exposure, taken between 2018 - 3018, not only shows the view in front of the camera, but also records how it develops over time, revealing dynamics ranging from urban development to climate change.

Digital Pinhole Photograph from Eagle Rock | Site Photography by Ryland West
While one goal of Tahoe Timescape is to provide documentation of human and environmental dynamics for study by future generations, the Millennium Camera, custom made from copper for durability, is equally intended as a mechanism for people today to envision their long-term impact on the environment – and potentially to change the picture by altering their behavior.

Tahoe Timescape features four Millennium Cameras that will be deployed around all four shores of Lake Tahoe, with fixed vantage points positioned to provide an expansive view of the Lake Tahoe Basin, presenting multiple opportunities for the public to engage in deep-time thinking as they explore the region. The copper brackets that secure each camera in their location, as well as informative plaques mounted next to the cameras, are fabricated locally by Mountain Forge. The four locations, pinpointed on a topographic map and identified by geographic coordinates, are as follows:

  • South Shore: Heavenly Mountain Resort, South Lake Tahoe, NV / CA
  • West Shore: Eagle Rock, Homewood, CA
  • North Shore: Lake Tahoe Dam, Tahoe City, CA
  • East Shore: Sand Harbor, NV

Jonathon Keats and Tahoe Public Art's Executive Director, Mia Hanak, conducted site surveys to identify the vantage points and Millennium Camera locations. Local landscape photographer Ryland West explored each site to shoot a set of landscape photographs paired with digital pinhole photographs focused on the actual vantage point from the Millennium Cameras to help us imagine the photographic composition that will be recorded by each between now and 3018.

"Tahoe Public Art is truly excited to be presenting the conceptual art of Jonathon Keats to the Lake Tahoe Basin. With the ongoing stewardship of Sierra Nevada College, we hope this encourages tourists and residents alike to contemplate the future of the basin and how they can become active in its preservation." - Steve Miller, Chairman, Tahoe Public Art.

Further outreach will be facilitated by an exhibition about deep time photography at Sierra Nevada College's Tahoe Gallery. Opening on October 18th and running through November 16 in 2018, the exhibition will feature four sets of landscape photographs, digital medium format pinhole photographs, and photo documentation of the cameras secured at each location. Samplings of pinhole cameras, and a topographic map showing the camera sites and geographic coordinates will also be showcased. On September 5th, Keats led a pinhole camera workshop for SNC students. The exhibition will also showcase original artwork by SNC students -- including 2-D, 3-D, digital arts, and interdisciplinary art -- encapsulating how they envision Lake Tahoe in one thousand years.